Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Masquerade

People... aren't.

I have just come to this realization, and I need a cigarette to fully digest it and contemplate its implications.

*cigarette*

Okay, let's back up a step.

Solipsism is, I think, an inherent part of the human condition. The innate humanity of others is something truly unknowable. We are trapped within our own minds; it is only through a combination of learning and empathy that we understand - to a limited extent - that other humans have the same kind of mental space we do.

When I go to a bar: yes, there are people. I recognize that humans, such as myself, have mental spaces that somewhat mirror my own, sufficiently to recognize that they are not straight-up p-zombies. That said, however, they are not... individuals. They aren't persons, they are merely people.

When I engage with one of these people, or one of them engages with me, they cross that divide and are no longer people, but a person. However, that transition is not one-way; many of the persons I have encountered in my life, but no longer keep in touch with, have gone back to being people. For some, this transition is faster; for others, it may never happen.

This kind of plays along the same lines of the notion that "a single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." It also plays around with the idea of Dunbar's number, in the sense that we can only track so many persons at a time, and everyone else just becomes people.

I'm going to go ahead and posit that empathy - that ingrained part of your brain that makes you connect to other people on an emotional level - is what forces that transition of someone you are literally interacting with in the moment to go from people to person. For people with built-in empathy, who have no ability to turn it off, that immediate transition is automatic and cannot be stopped. It can be temporarily overridden, such as what we see in the Milgram experiment and similar such psychological experiments (though there is apparently some question as to the veracity of Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, but that's beyond the scope of this post).

People in positions of power who are able to wield that power effectively - by making hard decisions, by being back-stabbing bastards, by playing the power game - are those that are able to prevent that instantaneous transition from happening. They can look at an individual they are interacting with and not see Dave, but just a pawn or what-have-you. Authority requires this: if you have to fire someone, it is simply easier to do so if you do not see them as Dave, the guy you go out drinking with, but as just a member of some class of people. It is much harder to harm someone we consider a person, because of the empathic bond; but if a people never becomes a person in your mind, then you can make that decision.

Of course, the reason it's difficult to harm a person is because of conscience; if you lack that, well, then you can do what you will while still allowing individuals to transit from people to person, because of your lack of concern of the moral ramifications of your actions, if any.

You cannot invest emotionally in people, but you can invest in a person. You can try to invest in people as a whole, but your efforts are probably self-serving in some fashion; all those environmental activists, for instance, may be working to better the lives of people, but I would argue a good number are also doing it for various other reasons, most of them probably tied to their images of self.

Anyway... the point that I am trying to make, here, is that power, empathy, and conscience are all tied to this notion of people vs. persons. The cognitive limitation we have on how many people we can literally regard as actual persons just further exemplifies the point, as does any demonstration of random strangers interacting.

My takeaway from this... people should earn their personhood. Instead of automatically assigning emotional value to interactions with others, wait until they give you a good reason to promote them to person. Because persons are valuable in some fashion; not in a tool sense, but in a real, personal sense. Persons shouldn't be manipulated, shouldn't be used and discarded; they are the social network of individuals you give a damn about. People, on the other hand, can be manipulated, can be used and discarded, can be made your pawns in whatever activities they are relevant for. Because they haven't earned the ability, in your mind, to be a person.

This is not to say that you should just automatically treat people like shit. Obviously being an amicable individual who isn't an asshole just for kicks will get you a lot farther in life than the converse. But such interactions need not contain real emotional content; you shouldn't put value on the random people you meet, because they are just people. Until they prove sufficiently interesting or worthy of investment, they should stay that way.

This approach calls for a modulation of empathy and an acceptance of lack of conscience, while still acknowledging that something akin to meaningful relationships are still possible. But rather than going with meaningful relationships as the default state, it instead defaults to a more detached, clinical approach. Stoicism, essentially.

Once upon a time, I decided upon three virtues: distance, balance, focus. My last post could be said to have been primarily about balance; balance between the three facets of existence - body, mind, soul. This post, then, could be said to be primarily about distance, and its importance in engaging with the rest of humanity.

Why is this important? Because life is, most times, a zero-sum game. There are winners and losers. As much as we may detest that fact, at this point in human history, it is a truth. If I get a job, there is someone out there who may have wanted it that now will not. In order to pursue my goals, it is therefore necessary that I act in accordance to my own will and actively work against the wills of others.

If I were to acknowledge these others as persons, that would be to act with empathy and conscience towards them, and I may undermine my own goals to serve the goals of others. However, because no one is watching out for me, I must put myself first, above all others; to do otherwise is self-sabotage. Thus, to further myself, I must explicitly not acknowledge these people as persons. I need to keep them at arm's length.

This is not to say that I should dehumanize them or "other" them. I can still see them as people, and there is a baseline level of respect there; I can argue for their rights and such, as people, and all that fun jazz. But I think that there is a distinction in the types of ethics and morality applied; for people, it is in the abstract, while for persons, it is in the concrete.

...if it seems like I'm trying to justify manipulating others, while trying to hold on to a semblance of common decency, you would be entirely correct. The problem with my last dalliance with the Black was that I simply threw myself into it, without consideration of the repercussions or the precise philosophy with which I was acting. I simply went on base impulse, which... well, you either know how that went, or can read about it, at your leisure.

I am ultimately going back to the Black. I don't think there's any way around that, at this point. But I recognize that the darkness can lead to terrible places, and I'm not ready to adopt that again. Instead, I want to take on what I view as the positive aspects of the Black, while segregating myself from the aspects of it that are just quite frankly terrible.

I actually am starting to think that Candle Morality might actually still prove useful, in the vein that it was intended. It provides a simple moral framework that is incredibly basic, that allows for the kinds of things I'm talking about while still acting as a preventative measure against truly heinous things. If I accept that others will attempt to manipulate me - and they will - and do not acknowledge that as wrong, but simply a thing that happens, then it doesn't rise to the level of moral judgment. It is simply a fact of life at this stage in our species' development that these things will happen.

Manipulation can be harmful, yes. Doing things like backstabbing someone to get a higher position in a company is probably harmful to that person, but not harmful in the same way as actually stabbing them. It's part of the game; if they choose to play by rules they don't have to, that is their own choice. I am not depriving them of basic needs, I am not challenging their ability to live; I am simply participating in the game we call society.

Yeah... yeah. That all makes sense to me. An entirely sensible moral framework that still allows for the social game of power. I like it. It's pretty solid. Of course I may only think so because it's nearly quarter to six in the morning, but hey, progress is good. I've been trying to wrap my head around this stuff for like a week now.

Alright, pretty much time for bed, I think. Probably another smoke though.

291 days remain.

A still more glorious dawn awaits.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bushido

Once upon a time, I was entranced by Japanese culture. Something about the notion of the samurai grabbed me, engaged in something... primal, deep within.

The idea of the warrior-poet is still an ideal I cherish. That one must be strong not just of body, but also of mind. In my younger years, of course, being the geeky-type of individual that I... hrm. I'm not certain if the usage of "am" there is appropriate, anymore. Yes, I engage in geeky activities; but at this point, I am not certain I fit the stereotype. Does a geek lift weights?

Oh yeah, that's a thing that started this past weekend. I have a regular workout routine now; I've also started watching my diet. Mostly involving excising fast-food, but a diet, nonetheless. I have noticed that in the past year or so, I put on a significant amount of weight; my metabolism, once notoriously fast, has apparently slowed. Being closer to 30 than 20, now, I am not surprised by this. But something had to change, and this - in combination with my... revelations, these past couple weeks - has resulted in me now lifting. I'm not terribly strong, never have been, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Anyway. The goal, here, is a harmony of the triad: body, mind, soul. I have and always will be quick of mind; I have an intellectual power that is, frankly, superb. I have often been called arrogant because of that stance; rather than renege and say that I am not as smart as I think I am, I instead need to find ways to modify that presentation, to socially calibrate my behavior so that I am not such an arrogant bastard to people whose opinions I care about.

Soul... well, I discussed that in my last post. To embrace the realities that I see through my mind's eye, the atheism that I accepted so very long ago. But not just empty atheism; instead, to take it to its logical conclusions. There is no objective morality, there is no true right or true wrong, and thus we behave as we will. In essence: to embrace the ideal of the ├╝bermensch. To unshackle myself from the various belief structures that have been drilled into my head in my upbringing and by society at large; to unplug myself from the lies I have convinced myself of. To embrace what I once considered the darkness - but this time, without malice in my heart, just acceptance of truth.

I think that is where I went wrong, last time. I was - still, foolishly enough - in an incredibly volatile emotional state, further destabilized by a dependence on alcohol. When Bri came along and shook the one truth I thought was inviolate, it... disrupted the dance, and my world fell apart. I found the subconscious waiting, and embraced it, using my emotional conflict towards Danielle as fuel to justify doing a bunch of petty bullshit.

Of course, the recovery - if you could call it that - was just as bad, but in the opposite direction. I embraced all the bullshit I'd been taught growing up with full conviction, became convinced that I needed to atone and make it all better. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure that I needed to apologize; I probably shouldn't have, since the only reason I needed to was because I revealed the entirety of the plot. But I recall thinking to myself that I was done with games, that I was going to be honest and straight-forward from then out.

Funnily enough, of course, that got abused. When the thing with Freya, Amber, and Ryan went down, the ladies manipulated me. Still stuck in the state that I was, I was completely blind to it - I was acting honestly and forthrightly, and got played for it. I recall not appreciating that feeling, which made me double down on the whole "manipulation is bad" shtick.

So... fast-forward to now. In the intervening time, I've been manipulated multiple times by girls in my life. I should've known better, with regards to Danielle; I really should have. There was no excuse for ignoring that her past actions; I was a fool for anticipating change, and - once again - got played for it.

Really, the point here is simple. Women - all people, really, but I don't think I've met a woman who doesn't - manipulate people all the time. In a society where the application of brute force is outlawed, really the only field of challenge left is the social one, and therein lies the Machiavellian methods. The things that I was once very good at, the tools I intentionally abandoned because of a girl... who then turned around and used those very same methods on me.

Bear in mind that I'm not angry at her. Amber and Freya both did what they felt was necessary to improve their position; that's fine. It's a game, and I can't get mad for losing a game. I feel... angry for having been tricked, from an earlier encounter, into not even playing, the second time around, but life isn't fair.

And that's really the thing, here. Life isn't fair. Egalitarianism is a pipe-dream; it's just like anarchy. I have a strange habit of liking concepts that are only possible in theory, but can literally never be handled properly in execution. So if egalitarianism isn't possible, if life is something akin to a zero-sum game, then one should learn to play it.

Hence the samurai thing at the beginning of the post. Excellence in all fields; pursuit of perfection in every task undertaken. Wu wei, applied to all things. But in order to properly apply it, one must acknowledge that the three aspects of ourselves - body, mind, spirit - all must be cultivated. Ignore one aspect, and it weakens the whole: such is the nature of triads.

...

My primary concern is that I am losing sight of my ultimate goal. I am concerned that this new-found approach to life may encroach upon my ability to pursue it, primarily because it is not focused on one of the few currencies that matter.

However, I think that it may be possible to find harmony with the approach and my goal of working on AI. We shall see, I suppose, in the decades to come.

...

At this point, I suppose it might also be useful to point out that the old dichotomy of the Word and the Work is no longer in play. It was a useful concept, most of the time; it helped me get through a lot of the worse parts of my early 20's. But it, like so many other dualities, must be abandoned.

The chaos and tumult in my mind is beginning to coalesce into something solid, something firm, something... attuned to the realities of the world. Illusions and falsehoods slowly fade from my vision, and I am left with something beginning to approach the clarity of crystal. I am gradually forming a new code in my mind, a fusion of things I have read in the past weeks, my nature, and beliefs resulting from a renewed, closer examination of the world in which we live.

...

In other news, I need to find a job.

292 days remain.

A still more glorious dawn awaits.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Void

I've dallied with the darkness before. I know the feeling well; I know these thoughts. This road is all too familiar, and was one that I - eventually - recoiled from. The darkness is... well, dark. It's grim and nihilistic and destructive and ultimately absurdly mentally unhealthy.

...but there's more to it than that.

My particular brand of spirituality has always been a touch weird. I've been a self-proclaimed Taoist now for almost thirteen years. That's nearly half my life, and I'm still down with the book: though, of course, I have put it aside. Part of the point of Taoism is to come to the realization that the book - hell, the whole school of thought - was just a means of getting you to the point where you don't need the book and the school anymore.

It's... a really weird realization, when that hits you, and is super-hard to explain to people not in the know. If you had told me that I would have gotten to this point as a Taoist back when I first got into the concept, I probably would've given you a puzzled look and been completely confused. Why would I pick something up, with the end goal being to put it back down again?

Anyway. I think a cigarette is in order, before I get to the meat of this post.

*cigarette*

Of all the concepts of Taoism - purely "by-the-book" Taoism, at any rate - that I have looked into, the most elusive of them, for me, is that of wu wei, the notion of non-action. It's one of the more difficult concepts to grasp, in that attempting to grasp it completely misses the point of grasping it and... yeah, Taoism is hokey.

Anyway.

In continuing with my search for a better understanding of this new way of thinking that I have stumbled across and understood on some deeper level earlier this week, it led me to a very lengthy discussion of power dynamics in groups, and the sorts of "levels" that show up in corporate structures. It was a very long thing, and it got a little head-up-their-ass towards the end (people who have not read Russell and do not understand the whole thing of writing clearly piss me off to no end), but I think I got the gist of it.

...I did not like where the prior version of this post went after that paragraph, so I am starting over at this point. Maybe I'll post those thoughts later, but they don't belong here.

To summarize my thoughts right now... dualism is bullshit, and I've lived a lot of my life with the whole conscious/subconscious divide. It's led to a lot of bullshit, and it's clear to me that it's not going to get any better.

To move away from it, I need to stop worrying about the weird grey areas in my moral code. Adopt the social contract, and be done with it; anything not covered by that, may as well not exist. There is too much concern, on my part, about things that are ultimately foolish to worry about, and they are holding me back in strange ways. I need to cut myself off from those thoughts.

I need to embrace what I am, and work with that truth. I need to look at reality and accept it for what it is, and act and react accordingly. The vessel is made from clay, but it is the empty space inside that makes it usable: this is the lesson of Void.

Not void in the sense of the Western use of the word, not a yawning chasm of nihilism... though, in some ways, it is that, as well. But when I turn inward, there must be nothing. When I speak of my spiritual self, I speak of my acknowledgment of the nothing that exists within that space, that I am malleable and able to adapt to any situation, and can act according to who I am as a whole in those moments.

The only authority over myself is myself. There is no objective moral truth. My center is calm and without duality - there is no light, no dark, only Void. It is from this inner peace and quiet of soul that all else that I am must flow from. There is no greater authority in this world; there is only the world, and it is what we make it.

I am free, and my actions arise naturally from the product of what I am. That is all the spirituality I require.

...kind of wondering if a lot of this post is bullshit. This week has been kind of confusing for me.

Feels like time for sleep.

296 days remain.

A still more glorious dawn awaits.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chrysalis

...power.

This past week has dragged. Doing well enough in classes; looking to get a job soon. Have something somewhat lined up, we'll see.

The big thing, though, was getting tired of games again. Got back into FF XIV earlier this month, as a way to burn time. Was fun enough, I suppose; but then it came time to try to organize doing endgame shit, and things just fucking fell apart. That was this past weekend; I lost a lot of ambition to keep playing after that.

It's just the same fucking drag, over and over again... there's no point. It gives me nothing, it isn't terribly satisfying, I have to deal with peoples' egos and just generally being dicks, and... no thank you, I've got better things to do.

Cue me sitting here dicking around on the internet for like... six hours. Doing nothing, still.

But then I was reading some things. And that led to some other things. And that still to others. And it... has been like an awakening. "Unplugging," they call it. I've read these mantras before, on the cusp of a revelation without realizing what was on the other side; I had seen the door, but not walked through it, much less even opened it.

Tonight I have opened that door, and ... so much of my life has suddenly become understandable. All the bullshit that surrounded my relationship in the past, the murkiness and cloudiness of it, the things I couldn't grasp... now in sudden, crystal-clear clarity.

I know what my life has been prior to this moment. And I will not allow it to continue to be so.

Things are going to change. My eyes are open... I see with clarity.

298 days remain... and I will start making the most of them, starting right now.

Today will see the rise of a glorious dawn.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Abuse

Been awhile. Quite awhile, actually.

Unfortunately, my life is such that not much has happened.

School is going relatively well. Getting a solid C in anatomy and physiology, which is... sufficient. I have been constantly putting off accounting, but whatever. And probably A's and B's in my various Office classes.

Yay me.

Spent a couple weeks hitting the alcohol a little too hard. Decided after this past weekend that that's got to stop for a bit; been relatively depressed lately, and that sure as hell isn't helping anything. So going to back off for awhile, just to readjust. I don't need to go down that road again.

I jokingly brought up a Journey playtest the other day to the Friday group, and they have taken to the notion with surprising gusto. That was... around a month ago, and we're due to start in a few weeks. I've done pretty much nothing about it; a little work, here and there, but nothing major. I feel the need for a manic episode, and... nothing is coming.

Still jobless. Unsurprising.

Still single. Also unsurprising. Though I've managed to mostly wean myself off of compulsively checking in on Danielle all the damn time. I know that that is fucking pathetic, but... hopefully one day I can look back and laugh at myself, for how much of my twenties were consumed by such a useless girl. I really hope that turns out to be the case, anyway, though I'll fully admit I don't expect that to happen.

And I've managed to pretty well alienate myself from my friends. So... go me, I guess. Hopefully I can start patching things up once these classes are done, because... fuck, they are kind of keeping me busy. Even though I'm being lazy.

So: that's me, this month.

304 days remain.

A still more glorious dawn awaits.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hope

I'm inebriated right now. Been listening to the music of... better times, I guess. Goddamn I listened to a bunch of depressing shit back in the day.

I'm tired of being lonely. I'm tired of feeling stuck. I'm tired of being trapped in the past. Once upon a time, my drinking at least served a purpose... now? It's just... fucking habit.

I want to have hope that the future is going to be better. I don't believe that, though. As time marches forward, my circles shrink, and the notion that I can do the things I want to do, that I can live a life that is worth living, feels ever more distant.

I hate feeling helpless like this. I hate feeling hopeless. I don't want to be trapped here... but there are so few, so very few, who believe in my ability to improve on my situation and make things better.

I hate feeling sorry for myself. And that... just kinda makes things worse.

I have no idea how many days remain, anymore. It's a number... a smaller number than yesterday, to be sure.

Everything feels like it's floating. I hate this uncertainty. I hate this feeling of... waiting.

A still more glorious dawn awaits... or so I keep telling myself. I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Frustrated

Ugh.

So I've been tooling around the internet for quite awhile, these days. Mostly I spend my time on gaming-related message boards; for the past few years, I've spent most of that time theorycrafting, trying to understand gaming and my style, and understand my own goals more thoroughly.

Specifically, I'm interested in making my game function and do the things I want it to do. I've spent a long time on Journey. I have a vague sense of what I want out of it, and I have a vague sense of how to go about it.

Something like five or six different boards, now. Each focused on their own thing, in their own ways; and yet, all of them are, somehow, useless to me. Either full of assholes, full of useless crap, or just... it's just a very aggravating experience, generally.

I started this evening with a sense of... rejuvenation, in a way, I guess. I feel like I've been building up towards working on it again, in a big way. A big push towards getting things finalized, ready for testing.

And then a bunch of assholes show up and completely ruin my mood.

It's like... come the fuck on, people. Why does everyone feel the need to be so antagonistic? Why are people such dicks? Why does everything have to be taken exactly the wrong way? Why are people so convinced that everyone else is wrong?

I fucking hate people.

Anyway... it's late, and now I'm irritated, and I should probably go to bed. Should probably start actually working on homework come the morning...

346 days remain.

A still more glorious dawn awaits...