Why?

Why were my childhood years destroyed by two abusive guardians?

Why do I have to deal with regular self-esteem collapse?

Why do I have to shut down and monitor suicidal thoughts all the time?

Why do I have to endure a life void of love or romance?

Why is who I happen to be seen as less valuable than others by a racist ideology? 

Why does morality protect the people who are guilty, but not the innocent?

Why do I have to relive traumatic episodes?

Why do I have to live with insomnia and chronic lack of energy?

Why do I have to cope with alienation from society?

Why do I have to live with the rejection that follows all of this?

Clearly the world is not balanced, and certainly not fair. There are some people for whom none of the above questions are ever asked. And some even more unfortunate people for whom life is worse.

There must be some kind of regulatory principle to account for this, to balance people’s stories. We cannot just leave society laissez faire and expect any kind of meritocracy to be established.  Leaving things be means perpetuating an ever worsening inequality of opportunity.

Some people start with an immense view of the world from the top of a hill, others start in a gutter filled with immense hurdles. Whether people succeed or fuck up is ultimately up to them, but how much harder is is to be something if you are emotionally crippled, living in constant poverty and fear of destitution, drained and trapped in your own body by extreme and disturbing emotion.

I do not want all of the shit that happened to me to stop me from reaching a place of thriving. I want support to flourish in spite of it. Society either needs to give more support and balance the books, or something will snap in all the people like me, and the outcome will force the issue.

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The survival of our species depends on…

Isn’t it insane that we are hurtling toward catastrophic climate change, yet people seem to be going about as usual?

As a short-term survival strategy, going about the standard life of a coffee-chugging capitalist citizen seems sound. You need money to pay your rent and bills, which means you need to be constantly working to get good pay and prospects, which means you need to understand what employers are looking for and conform to these expectations, which means being involved in society’s value system.

The present capitalist system is very well rigged to make you like this. It is a hostile environment whose purpose is to make you feel anxious and afraid. Without constant “productive economic activity” you could lose your shelter, be forced to live in poor and dangerous areas, be unable to afford the luxuries which sustain your lifestyle, be thrown onto the scrapheap along with the “unproductive” worker ants.

There is always a risk of losing your material basis, as the government strips away protections and inspires ever more precarity. There is the shame of inactivity, poverty, being an outcast, or simple boredom (and all of the existential angst that comes from it), hanging over our heads. This makes it seem logical and sensible to conform to the system, even as it gradually serves us less and less. The warped and toxic value-system of our society promotes mindless conformity and hurtling-juggernaught growth over considered choices and gradual, creative growth (it might have some elements of enlightenment, and perhaps some people do what they genuinely love to enrich the soul of man, but we are talking about the masses).

So in the short-term, it makes sense to be a conforma-drone. I imagine that most people don’t know any different from their lives as exploited proletarians, whose biggest offering to society is the sale of their labour to larger, more powerful entities. If they do know of alternative ways of life, it is as an intellectual exercise, an “utopian ideal” which is all well and good, but cannot get in the way of all this labour-selling and moral underachievement.

But in the long-term, there is no species survival in it. The sum  total of the “its just my job” people, all of the “I have a mortgage to pay” people, all of the “my boss might fire me” people and all the “I don’t have a choice” people is a dystopian hell. If the world was left in the hands of such unimaginative souls, we would truly be approaching the end times.

Fortunately, the blinkered short-term thinkers are redeemed by those who see into the long-term; those who have foreseen the cliff that human civilization is hurtling towards. Such people have been around for decades. It is generally such activists and scientists who have taken risks in the short-term; the risk of destitution and humiliation, the risk of imprisonment and punishment, for the long-term survival strategy of evolving our society.

Imagine if all of those activists never took action because they had to work in a supermarket to sustain their mundane lives. Imagine if all of those climate scientists let the powerful corporations silence them, because they had to put their families and reputations above the truth. They would be as much underachievers as anyone who cannot see beyond capitalism and its destructive effects on the present, and the future to come. This is not to separate people into black and white categories of hero and drone, it is to say that most of us can, and should, rise up and strive for the true freedom which can only come in a free, equal, sustainable society.

It is not easy to think ahead – it is extremely anxiety inducing, and not always understood by people why such thinking is important. The future is unpredictable, we cannot map it out anymore than we know which way to turn in life’s labyrinth.

But we can learn from the paths we take, prepare ourselves with a shield and a big ball of wool to help protect us against danger and navigate what lies before us. We can look back on the past and learn from our mistakes, and vow to never again repeat them. Perhaps someday we will live in a world where short-term survival strategies are in harmony with the long-term, but that is a world we must earn.

We are coming to the point where we no longer have a choice but to risk a society-wide evolutionary experiment or face further catastrophe. Perhaps we are already at that point.

But thanks to the rebels (who are increasingly becoming the mainstream) I have hope that there is a future for us, and for our living world.

 

Out of isolation, into total communion

What is isolation but to feel that your suffering is unique to you, and that no one else could possibly understand what is occurring inside you?

The fragmented society of individuals, where people walk by without knowing you, means you can be surrounded by any amount of quantity, but no quality. A million, million people can see you but not one make you feel like a person sentient.

Who cares about you, or can afford to, as orders from above dictate a false economy of scrambling for life-boats and tight purse strings (known in political rhetoric as ‘austerity’)?

The troubles and anxieties of moderns were unknowns to ancients who had fates and gods. The suffering of isolation must weigh heavily on any utilitarian’s scales, marking the failure of our times to bring happiness, even with all of our technologies and advantages of knowledge.

The prescribed panacea to the isolation feeds into it, for it is no panacea at all but false promise. Facebooks and Instagrams and such non-communities distance us from sentience, that of ourselves and others. Addictive, fleeting and empty mediums.

Like filling a void with dust.

I do not want to be made of dust, to be insubstantial and misunderstood but who has the time?

A final cure for isolation there is not, for any of us can grow old, see their friends and family fade, and be trapped in a non-life on the sixth floor in some grey tower of dying. But for the now we could have far more recognition and true being than is afforded us by soulless digital mediums, if only there were some way to wean people away from the heroin of Facebook.

A true and genuine faith in the transformative power of community is needed, and this high-morale state is the only way we can achieve our goals of egality and ecological health. The cruelty of the system makes it harder and harder for this true resistance to form, but no one ever said a life alienated was ever going to be easy.

Through therapy I am at least able to find someone who can go into me, and in reflection have his own sentience confirmed. After enough sessions so strong a bond is formed that we reach a point of mutuality, even if it is largely me sharing my angst and mental health troubles.

This is an extreme example of healing through being known. If one other person could for one moment understand and feel what it felt like, how much a sorrow would be lifted! Then real healing could rapidly work upon the wounds and I could walk alone some of the way. Imagine if ten people made that time and effort.

If the inflicter will not ever listen, will not those others who have been inflicted?

Isolation is terrible for a person. It can be conceived of as torture, in the long term worse than any physical death. That some particular souls have endured isolation for years because of belief in God, or the stars, or what-have-you, gives little solace. How pathetic for humanity to need higher powers just to fulfil some basic need. Faith is only beautiful to me when it is a thing of aesthetic magnanimity – not desperation and feeble clawing at the skirts of god. I want to surrender my ego for the beauty of the cosmos, not for the vulnerabilities and feelings of alienation threatening within.

I believe in communities and fellowships and kinships upon earth, here and now. To serve each other as the ultimate unity and escape from the icy loneliness threatened by individualist non-society.

There is such a thing as serving yourself before you serve others, but how much easier it is to serve yourself when the others you can serve appreciate you! One does not need to come before the other, and it is foolish to believe one ever will.

If I could be satisfied in myself I would never strive to do anything for the better. If like a monk I could meditate still as a stone I would fathom no art, no songs and no stories, and these creative gifts would wither away, or shrink like a muscle unused. I need you, I hope you need me too.

Total communion is the breaking of boundaries between people and a temporary wholeness. I do not wish to sound too utopian or longing as it happens often already, in the dance hall as much as the bed-chamber as the temple ritual or therapy room. But I would not still feel great bouts of isolation and hellish loneliness if there was not this shield of ice around my soul still – so at least I can say this total communion is not yet regular enough for me!

Look now – we need each other, says the science and says the spirituality, so isn’t it time to put money where mouths are act upon this however we can?

Work-ethic anxiety

‘Yeah I’m going on holiday after this work season finishes. Then I will return to my productive labours at the office. How about you Tim? What are you doing with yourself’? asked William.

‘Oh…I’m currently “between jobs”.’

William looked at him with a slight edge of disdain. Tim wished he could shrink and vanish into a crack in the pavement.

I)

A large source of my anxiety and self-worth problems have historically come from the w-word.

Work.

I used to not do it much. Not doing it much was not very good for my soul, which vegetated in front of the computer, or in front of blank, white walls. At around the age of twenty-three, I stopped playing computer games or staring at walls, and started being more creative. A little bit every day – of writing, music, and game design. I remember a quite specific moment when this rhythm started to sink in. Even though a lot of the writing and creativity didn’t go anywhere, and wasn’t cohesive, creating something every day gave me some direction, self-worth and helped hone my skills.

This ‘work ethic’ is still with me today. However, it is not so useful as it once was. When you are creating things for the necessity of filling some ego-void, it is very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The work is not always directed toward any goal, and small accumulation doesn’t always get you anywhere.

Doing tiny bits of work every day is like building a sand-castle, where every time you add a bucketful of sand, half a bucketful has been lost to the laws of entropy, decayed and misshapen. Stepping away from the sand-castle, you can reconsider how it is going, or see it from different perspectives. You could even say fuck this sand-castle, and go do something else!

It is deeply neurotic to feel a severe compulsion to do things. There are days when you cannot create something, when you fall ill or just feel plain uninspired. Is it legitimate to hate yourself and feel deflated on these days? If so it shows a ‘living in the present’ which definitely isn’t mindful or healthy.

So as you can tell, my ‘work ethic’ can be quite destructive and self-negating, a double-edged sword. It is also not necessarily productive. In this sense it has a lot in common with another work ethic.

That of the capitalist world.

II)

There is this destructive belief that we should always be active. We should shun the hours of night and live for the hours of day, scrambling around, doing things. Endlessly doing things. Always doing things.

I have heard many people say ‘I am currently between jobs’, as if all of life was to be contained within the boundaries of work. As if not having a ‘job’ was something to be ashamed of, and required a euphemism.

Yet always being active does not mean one is being productive. A short-sighted measure of productivity misses the much important bigger picture. A busybody might work every day, and think that everyone else has to. In a vigourous rhythm of work, our busybody could easily fail to take care for themselves (I’ve been there), and carry resentment for others who do not share their ‘burden’ (there also). They might think that those who do not share their busybody attitude to work and perpetual industriousness are lazy and in need of ‘motivation’.

But other people might work at a different rhythm. The artist who paints one meaningful brush stroke per week is no less creative than the contracted musician who writes ten advertising jingles a week. In regards to productivity, one person may mindfully achieve more with a single hour of clever labour than a fusty busybody achieves in a week of running around keeping themselves busy.

Because those who stop to consider things can change fundamentals which save everybody time and energy, or which sets us on a better direction.

If a farmer spends ten days sowing ten acres with a shitty plough is he more productive than the farmer who spends five days sowing ten acres with the much better plough he took the time to improve and re-design? One who measures work in days and hours is bound to think that the longer one spends on something, the more productive they are being. This is simply time-filling, not meaningful, praiseworthy labour. Industriousness is no bedrock of pride or productivity.

The idea of a neurotic work-ethic is stopping us from pausing and planning for the precarious future. The more we run on the treadmill, the more we fear to step away, even if the end result is a disastrous collapse. The ceaseless juggernaut of capitalism is literally driving our society blindly over a cliff toward climate catastrophe.

III)

There are essential labours which must always be performed. In the twenty-first century we could make these comparatively few, thanks to technology, human wisdom and the bountifulness of nature. These essential labours do not need a work-ethic to promote them: if they are not done, people will starve and die, buildings will rot and collapse. Nor do they need particular praise or ‘bigging-up’. They get done because they should get done. Those who are able but refuse to perform these essential labours, or create extra work for others, should rightly change their ways, or go away. But to expect everyone to be ever-active is the great folly and conceit of our times.

If someone voluntarily spends their time grinding away at their craft to be the best that can be at it, I have much respect for them. But if someone expects others to always try their hardest, always be active, and be forced into involuntary work, then they can go and sod off.

CBT Part III: Sleep Deprivation

This article has been the hardest of all to write. Not because the subject matter is particularly daunting, deep or traumatic. But because it is the first time I have had to overcome fatigue and bodily wariness in a long, long time. Normally I am straight on a computer after a CBT session, full of energy and a desire to share with the world the wonders of cognitive behavioural stuff! Today, I had to overcome a big barrier of fatigue just to be here writing this, and I can’t promise anything special.

My recent episode of sleep deprivations seems to come from two places. Firstly, A gradual build up of anxieties, natural to living in a busy, expensive, polluted city. Secondly a loud idiot next door who shouts and wails at random intervals into the early hours. And I guess there is ultimately my own anxious personality and thinking patterns which can turn problems into serious problems. This I discovered from today’s CBT.

Lets start with the shouting. At random intervals in the night, a man will shout. It won’t be massively loud, but loud enough to jar you, or awaken you. For me it feels like his voice has entered by body, my being is filled with his sound. It is the exact same wail every time, a supposedly songful sound, but in truth, a horrible, mechanical, repetitive, intrusive load of shite. I came to associate any noise he made with the possibility of a wail or shout, and this puts me into a downward spiral of hyper-vigilance, which prevents me from having decent rest and recovering.

I didn’t realize how much this was effecting me. On the first day it was a nuisance. On the second day it hampered my ability to fall asleep. On the third I bashed on the wall at midnight and came close to telling him to shut the fuck up. On the fourth there was no shouting, but my system was in constant vigiliance, and wouldn’t let me fall asleep easily. This causes feelings of frustration, which develop into rage, something highly unconducive to falling asleep. I was, and still am, catastrophizing about the effects of sleeplessness.

Today in therapy we discussed this and revealed I do have unrealistic expectations and standards. I always feel the need to be active, alert and at around 80-90% capacity. I know we can never be at 100%, but I am very wary of being weak and vulnerable, especially having lived in countless environments where appearing unaware can be dangerous. It might seem obvious that this is a vicious cycle – the more you want to make yourself capable, the more you fear incapability, the more prone you are to anxiety and thus incapability. My therapist was very good in challenging this through questioning, making me run through the evidence and realize the vicious cycle. (But I don’t think it is entirely bad to have such high standards. Human beings are hunters by evolution, it makes sense that we will want to be capable of reacting to threat or opportunity at every possible occasion.)

But with me there is an additional problem, and the heart of the problem. The formation of patterns. I have used patterns to some good effect, building up positive days and exploits to get me out of panic disorder. The downside is, one or two shit days and I fear a bad pattern forming. This rigid thinking really is a double-edged sword, and never far from a downward spiral. The challenge is to be more flexible, to accept more sad days as inevitable. This is not easy to do.

My mind is prone to catastrophizing and thinking the worst. This is why the nuisance of an inconsiderate idiot’s shouting can become something frightening and world-shaking. If I stop fearing the predicted outcome of losing sleep, my body should become less hyper-vigilant toward such disturbances. I don’t feel our session quite went into enough detail. How could it? One hour cannot cover a lifetime of being this way. But it has been very helpful, in hindsight. I am less afraid of sleep deprivation, and less prone to it.

There was also the factor of a build up of anxieties. We tend not to realize sometimes how anxiety gets us. It is like a shadowy assassin, slowly poisoning you drop by drop. For the considerate, this causes internal strife and restlessness. For the inconsiderate, this inspires the harming of others to regain a sense of control. I am sadly in the former category of person, and so the day-to-day banalities of life occasionally build up and make it difficult to function, even at 50% or so.

But its not only the cost of living and banal problems like that. The backdrop of an idiot sitting on America’s nuclear arsenal, catastrophic climate change threatening to wipe out everything that breathes, the dissolution of communities and the watered-down experience of Facebook and the like to replace it, new technologies falling into the hands of powerful capitalists; among a host of world events and tragedies, make anxiety quite a normal and relatively sensible state to be in. How we react to that anxiety is another matter entirely – with fear and paranoia, or the will to change things and become more harmonious. Or like myself, a mixture of the two. Nevertheless, I entirely understand why it is there.

These worries are definitely harming natural, harmonious functioning. Not only in me, but in so many citizens of the ‘so-called’ first world. This includes that most natural and essential, but mysterious, phenomena that is sleep. Sadly, I can’t think of a way around this off the top of my head. Maybe to paraphrase Alain De Botton and to see the odd night of insomnia as a creative gift to be cherished. And to realize that normality isn’t quite so normal, and lots of people have trouble sleeping. This doesn’t give me much solace. If I could sleep eight hours a night without disturbance for the rest of my life, I would.

Learning what I have about my own need for patterns and rigid routines, challenging negative thoughts by seeking evidence, practicing breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, I should have a decent night’s kip tonight, and be back up to a decent level of running, without fatigue tomorrow. I at least can write a half-way decent article three days into moderate sleep deprivation! I venture to say then that it isn’t quite as bad as anxiety has made it out to be, (even though it is far from ideal). As with all things in life, the breaking of the pattern has made me realize the pattern. Perhaps this is the key to changing it, and perhaps something better will actually emerge from it. I don’t know, lets see.

 

 

 

 

Cracks in the pavement

'The city is expanding
 

All-pervading
 
Devouring everything into itself.
 
The system is absolute
 
Dominating
 
Chaining everything inside itself...'

Is it?

Look at the cracks in the pavement
Where moss and lichen grows
Green through the grey

Look at the cops joking around
On duty
Look at the council worker staring

At their reflection in a monitor

Realizing their futility.

 


Authority is in our minds
Projected outwards
The feelings of defeat
Are conjured in our heads;
The swell of over-thinking.

Left for ten years
This city would become a forest;
Plants feed off concrete
Trees tear it apart.
We are always only
A few years away from victory.

Bodily Logics and the importance of love

Two logics are at work in me. The one is open minded, beyond prejudice, anarchistic, gentle of spirit, enlightened, various, engaged, giving, loving, and artistically dynamic. The other Is stolid, closed, xenophobic, bigoted, ignorant, depressed, materialistic, unencouraging, frustrated, goalless, artless, authoritarian.

Why can I not choose the former over the latter? Every part of me is for it, every part of me wants to belong to it. My body quakes at the negativity of ignorance, or the grunts of frustration from small people with small worlds.  I don’t want these right-wing feelings in me, I don’t want to be anxious or depressed. I don’t want to play some false economy of finding security in wretched familiarity. I don’t want to snap every so often and spit bile at others. I don’t want to be so jaded as to be void of care for those closest to me.

But the choice is not so simple. If it were, these horrid, stolid things could be exposed and cleansed, as if by sacred flame. Yet character is not so simple. The depression becomes part of you, the un-virtues imposed upon you from youth are maintained into later years. Even being aware of them, they do not shrivel and die. Even speaking words of power to undo this malignant mana, the dark spell persists. Awareness alone does not seem to be enough. The actual physical body is stained by fear and toxic chemical traces. My chemistry, my very being is tainted with vile evil.

Take for example a child growing up in an abusive environment, or a nation under the totalitarian rule of a police state. How such things will warp any human being. Do you think the child or the citizens want to be as they are? Do you think un-free people want to harm others and commit atrocities? Do you think they would not imagine a better world if they could? Whatever they imagine, the reality of their bodies would ground and limit them. The chemical hatred and inferiority inside them would still simmer and sometimes conquer the will.

At this point in time I do not believe it is possible for the most severely oppressed to make free moral choices. The conscious mind would have to be supreme to rein in a lifetime of hatred, frustration and oppression. It would have to be transcendent, and apart from the whole human being – which is impossible. In this sense, I believe the most un-free to be determined. They did not choose to be made anxious by years of being spied upon, nor to fear the next strike of a tyrannical parent. But they had to endure this, and gradually, over miserable years, mental and physical trauma will have imprinted itself upon them.  Without knowing why, they would know a hatred inside for life and positivity, and a jealousy and envy born of feelings of insecurity and self-loathing.

The thing-just-inside feels intuitively right, however destructive it is to our true interests as natural beings. In this way, the oppressed can be crushed without having the will to fight back. The hurt can be convinced that they are too worthless to seek help. The proletariat can be exploited without realizing its own interests.

Help must sometimes come from an external source. What is determined must be un-determined by constant effort. Isolation can happen very quickly. Hope can quickly be shrouded by despair. If you know someone who is out at sea struggling to stay afloat, keep on throwing life-saving ropes to draw them back in until something catches. Then feed them love. It is very hard from the outside to know just how truly a person needs to be loved.

Love is the only means to un-make feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Love overthrows tyrants. Even more than freedom, love is the foundation of dignity. For one who is free but unloved will struggle with wretched inner-feelings, as much as one who is un-free and un-loved. The love we need to give does not have to be some super-natural concept. The day-to-day concern for people, fellowship, sharing things in common, culture-building and physical intimacy is what we enlightened mammals desire.

Once such basic needs, which can effectively be summed up by LOVING COMMUNITY are accomplished, all that is virtuous can follow. Just as a flower must be planted in fertile soil, watered regularly and mulched around to reach full life, so human beings must belong to a community, be well-nurtured, and protected from the worst of life. No matter how much humanity grows in technology and intellect, happiness will not be achieved until this most straightforward need is acknowledged. Any attempt to encourage happy citizens in a fragmented, isolating society is like planting a flower in concrete, shining the light of a false sun upon it, and selling it artificial fertilizer until it dies of cancer.

To have time for another is the most important thing on this earth for us frail, existentially lost beings. All an animal has is its fellow animal. We can be more than our pain, and we can find a new foundation stone of dignity if we are loved.

Love can turn back any darkness, eventually.

The Pace of Oppression

Oppression is not a solid thing. It is not a tangible entity. I feel it inside me as a pace of life, a compulsion, a chimera of fear and desire and desperation.

A cursory think about the capitalist system reveals the truth of its oppressive nature. What would happen if you decided to take a spontaneous holiday from work? You would become unemployed. To make ends meet you would have to go to a job centre. They would force you to look for work or participate in some kind of scheme to acquire the basics of living. You would be forced to do things equally as unpleasant as work. In other words, beyond set holidays there is no option to ‘opt out’ of this society for any duration of time. You have to be constantly active, most of the time.

This driving force to endlessly do things is the invisible motor of capitalism. It makes people hugely “productive”. So “productive” in fact that they have no time for hobbies, they have no time for relatives, they have no time for volunteering, they have no time for their children, they have no time for those with mental health problems, they have no time for artists. In fact, they have no time for anyone but the busybodies who think that everyone should be forced to do things, all the time (in other words, the bosses profiting from this sorry state of affairs).

As if this false economy of constant motion is somehow a noble end! As if endless consumption and the environmental devastation that follows is an inevitable law of human societies. Please! Do not be such an underachiever.

Human beings who are forced to do things they do not want to do become miserable. And human beings forced to do things they do not want to do, will do so in a half-assed, second-rate way. Left to their own devices, human beings will naturally labour to improve their lot. This is not only because they have to, in order to survive, but also because labour can actually be rather pleasant when done for the common good, and at one’s own pace.  Doubly so when we can actually enjoy the products of our labour, rather than feeding the super rich parasites draining us all.

Pause. Take breath.

We are emotional beings, children of nature. We are not machines waiting to be driven by a crankshaft. Any mechanistic, deterministic view of humanity has to die; we must be liberated from the tyranny of forced work. This race for productivity, to make more and more and more without even having the time to enjoy the fruits of our labour – the quickest way to describe it is a load of old bollocks. The most severe way as a deep waste of potential, and massive cause of anxiety and depression.

To feel like you have to constantly fill your life is a waste of that life. A window is useful because it is an absence of material; a bowl is most useful when it is empty; a wheel runs swifter that has gaps in it. The right to philosophical contemplation, to idle play, to whimsical creation, or just to lie in and have an indulgent wank, is essential to human happiness. Why is our society bent against such simple pleasures and basic securities?

Until the basics of life are provided for, and until labour is performed at our own pace for the common good of all, endless miserable work is the lingering doom we are going to have to live with. This is our inheritance of the archaic capitalist system, which no one really believes in, but the cowardly, uninspired masses go along with for their apathetic lack of hope in humankind.

If you believe that people should be allowed to work as what they want to be, rather than what they are forced to be, congratulations, you are a liberated socialist.