Don’t do it

.. philosophical things are below, venture at your own risk. Hic abundant leones.

               There are lots of things that aren’t under our control, both good and bad, which make us feel good, sad, happy or angry. It’s part of growing up, of growing old, of learning about ourselves and about those around us. We are social animals and, as such, we eventually reach the point in our lives when our largest mood changer doesn’t result from what we do or achieve, but from our social interactions. We derive our mood from other people’s behavior towards us. We might know exactly we did the right thing, on time and in the right way, and still get upset when our bosses or colleagues criticize us. Our work, our behavior might be without fault but their words or attitudes bypass our brain and bury themselves into our psyche. Words hurt, attitudes hurt, body language hurts – even if their basis is faulty and we know it. Self esteem is a popular topic all around, though what nobody tells us is how we are supposed to react. Oh, there may be lots of articles, videos and other things – they’re mostly contradictory crap. Five people give twenty mostly conflicting opinions and we’re supposed to do what exactly?

               We live in a constant information overload. We may have the best access to information in the history of man kind, however cheesy that may sound, but bullshit detection and basic usability classification seems beyond our reach. Ever stumble upon a library’s “self help” area? Yea, figures. Information is useless without a system to evaluate it, to link a particular scenario with the best solution. All we have is millions of ideas without tags, keywords and the lot, with no time-efficient method of sorting through it. I shudder to think what we used before Wikipedia, and that one my friends is one of the biggest achievements anybody ever put together for the sake of information usability. It’s not a perfect system, it’s prone to abuse and the information there is sometimes incorrect – but the basics are set. I wish there was something like that with scientific information, a library of knowledge keeping not only information but also a history of revisions, with a score to reflect at least a basic percentage of what’s accuracy and truthfulness – only allowing competent individuals to edit it. I mean, why exactly would I give an actor the ability to edit information on vaccine efficiency, or a dietician the ability to comment on genetically modified foods? This can’t be done, actually, without AI. Human beings are manipulative, hopeful, resentful, naive believers with more capacity to do harm with incomplete information than an emotionless machines – there’s a reasonable certainty things will be written just like history is, to conform with popular demand, to exist only in the form the winners choose. It’s not like Machiavelli’s work, it’s exactly that. That fellow was one hell of a scary thinker.

               I’d love a way to give only competent individuals opinions on things that matter, but I seem to have hit a roadblock here, because I also value the ability to question, the right to be curious and critical – massive progress happened by accident, by people who didn’t know some things can’t be done so they went ahead and did them anyway. Sometimes, progress means spitting in the face of logic. I’m stumped. It’s a contradiction of beliefs, one I don’t think I’m smart enough to solve. When is free speech damaging? Do we allow idiots to mock scientific theories only to find those theories incorrect after some time? I mean, there were people who didn’t think Newton’s theory of gravity was correct – and it isn’t, Einstein proved it. We still teach it in schools, though, it’s … good enough. Is Pluto a planet? Why? It was, then it wasn’t, then it was again a planet, then… I’m confused, did we just shoot ourselves in the foot? Again?

               Self esteem is important, individual identity is important, both act as barriers standing against a tide of conflictual, emotional, social change. They hinder the ability of snake-oil peddlers to muddy the waters, our ability to reason, but also prevents learning things we don’t like. Here’s the big hitter – I said “like”, not “agree with” or even “know”. I may not agree with Christian dogma but still adhere to some of its rules. I’m married, I don’t cheat on my wife, I try to be a good man, a good husband, a good father, basically I consciously try to be good. How good is defined is only relevant in a certain context – I apparently, can’t be a Buddhist because I sort of kill bugs and hate snakes, hell, I’d murder all mosquitoes if I could, them bastards are vicious. I keep only bits and pieces stolen from a multitude of sources then stitched together to make up what I think is the correct system of ethics and morality. I may be wrong, too. Also, I wasn’t like that for a long, long time, my identity isn’t yet completely fool-proof, I don’t think I’m right about everything, which is actually a good thing, on occasion. The more immovable your identity is, the less you can change, the less you can learn. Flexibility isn’t a good consort of identity, and here’s where my weak point is – I may confuse individual identity with something else. Identity is what we know we are, what we think makes us tick – it might be better to separate it into several pieces, like separating being certain of what I can do and being certain of what I know of say, biology. Knowing what I don’t know can be the actual key to my sanity. Is that the thing I’ve been looking for?

               Do you believe in yourself? Why? How can you believe in yourself? No, it wasn’t a criticism, it was a question, a valid question I’d rather have you hear than read, since I can’t properly reproduce the tonality and emphasis necessary to render it the way I’d like you to perceive it. What I mean is, how exactly do you, my fellow future self, accomplish this task of believing in yourself? Is it conscious? Does it take shape according to your wishes? Do you control what you believe? And why, what’s the reason shaping your choices? Because I can’t see one, I can’t find one. I can’t wholly believe in myself, in my whole self, without something to lean on, without a crutch to render my belief valid. I believed in my brain, well, I used to, until that’s been taken from me. Now I sort of only almost trust it. My body is fallible, my beliefs unfalsifiable, ergo they are wrong, ergo I am not perfect and can’t ever be perfect. I have flexibility of thought, adaptability, curiosity, but what I lack is certainty. No, I said that wrong, I may even have certainty, I may know for a fact my opinion is correct, what I lack is the belief of certainty, the actual emotion, the feeling to complete the mechanism. There’s a singularity that separates what I know from what I feel, like a black hole devouring my willpower, sucking in strength by the force of doubt. I learn, I know I’m right yet I feel incomplete. Why I feel incomplete? Because I’m naive, because I’m so weak mere words manage to hurt me. Because my mood, how I feel, is at the mercy of strangers, of others. It’s actually the reason I don’t like people, why I avoid them – it’s not about who they are or what they do or can do, it’s about the fear of what they can make me feel. What’s the point of all this? What is expected of a normal human? Am I a normal human? If I were crazy, would I know it?

               I’ve been depressed for years because others scoffed at me. I’ve been depressed for years because I thought people didn’t like how I looked, because I was fat. I’ve been depressed for years because I didn’t think I was good enough, because I didn’t consider my achievements the result of my work but thought of them as evidence for the randomness of life, of fickle chance. I allowed them, I allowed myself to strangle my thoughts to the brink of immobility. Fear paralysis with a twist, everything was doubt only that fear was certain – it was my crutch, my link to this reality. If I feared something, it ment I could feel, if I could feel it ment I was alive. I found myself avoiding movement, preferring sleep over activity, choosing to do nothing because nothing was better than something, because doing something ment that fear, that panic, might even go away. That ment something to me, it was like losing my link to sanity, my only link to this reality. I couldn’t function on my own, I couldn’t change it on my own, it was horrifying. I know, I know, shit happens. Oh boy, don’t I know it.. Life kicking me into motion was the best thing that ever happened to me. It hurt, yes, it hurt more than I thought it was possible yet I’m grateful for it. My fear dissapeared. I was left with nothing, my own personal helper, the demon stalking my dreams, was gone and I was naked in the snow. But no fear ment I had nothing to lose, so I made choices, I made decisions, I put one foot in front of the other until momentum took over. I felt better, I felt alive, and all it took was pain. Big buckets of psychological pain and muscle strain. Go figure. I managed to improve, bit by bit, to refocus my thoughts and isolate the destructive ones, reframe them, change them, and by doing that, I’ve created a bit of armor over my identity, I’ve made my self esteem stronger. I made myself stronger. Yet, it’s not enough.

               I still seek the approval of my peers. I may not get angry over many things, yet words still offend me, still change my mood. I managed to create a barrier to keep away most people, I don’t care about what others think of me – but that only works on strangers. Family, friends, co-workers, they still have some power over me. I let them. It’s a different universe from what was me a decade ago, yet… it’s not enough. Where do I draw the line? I read thousands of books, I’ve written thousands of words, I’ve experienced pain and happiness, yet nothing and nobody prepared me for this, the knowledge just isn’t there, all there is actually does more harm than good, I know, I’ve tried it. Where do I draw the line?

               I am the person I’ve decided to be, I’ve chosen my principles, I’ve decided my limits, but did I make the right choice, the right decision? All I have to support my self is that which I’ve chosen, that’s my crutch, that’s the source of my power and that’s certain because I’ve also chosen to never give up, to never surrender. There’s nothing that says “good job, kid, that’s a good choice”, no external support, no other foundation to build on, in all my travels I haven’t found a single trace of it. All I have, all I am is because I chose it. Nothing more, nothing less. Is it enough? Who can answer me that one question? Where’s my limit? Where’s the line to separate me from terra incognita? Have I ventured too far? I don’t know. Uncertainty is what erodes my power, my will, because there’s something else I can’t answer..

               Riddle, riddle, answer me this: “as a human being, do I need help?”. Should I expect help from others, even if I don’t get it? Am I complete if the only one who decided who I am, is me? Can I be complete, can I define who I am, without external intervention? Did I choose correctly? Let me rephrase that, it’s not a question of god or some higher power, it’s not a question for whether the influence of those around me can change my identity, the big question is:

               If I decide who I want to be, if I choose my guiding principles, if I define myself, alone, do I have to rely on others to validate my choice? Is my own evaluation of my own choices enough, or do I have to factor in the opinion of others? Should I? Believing I’m good because I chose to think and act according to a pattern I decided is how “goodness” should be defined, alone, all by myself, or should that decision of what “good” is be voted by others? And if others get to pitch in, how do I evaluate their definition? Is right and wrong, truth, justice, fairness, all to be decided by the whole of society? If people are not perfect, how do I account for the possibility that their evaluation, their opinion is not perfect? Somehow, that doesn’t feel right, to me. But I’ve said it before, what I think and what I feel are sometimes different things, even if on this I find them in agreement. Even worse, I’m not sure if this conclusion is the correct one, either. Am I an island? If yes, then why? If no, then why?

I think I just shorted out my two functional neurons, so… how do I adult again?

Post scriptum:

               Oh crap, time to open that bottle of whiskey. I’ve done enough thinking to last me a few days. Maybe even a month.


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