stumbling upon thoughts and vomiting up ideas

Identity Fatigue – A Labour of a Lifetime — October 12, 2016

Identity Fatigue – A Labour of a Lifetime


We’re all addicted at once, so we don’t feel addicted at all. Addicted to ourselves. Or rather, to our self we work tirelessly to uphold. We’re posing and striving and regressing from honesty. All to protect an illusion: the illusion of possessing a self.

With mutual affliction, we reinforce the delusion. Nobody is made to feel sleazy for checking their Facebook notifications or applying filters to their Instagram selfies. It’s simply a normal thing to do. But these acts have become so pedestrian that we hardly consider their psychological underpinnings. Why do we care if the picture gets liked? Why should people care about what I’m doing right now?

Can’t we see these acts for what they are? They’re compulsive pleas for self-recognition.

That’s a little strong, you’re probably thinking. And let me tell you, it’s not the most receptive idea at the house party. But ultimately it is true. If we honestly felt worthy, we’d focus much less on ourselves and much more on a cause, however noble or benign. But most of us don’t have a cause that exists outside of our self. We’re adaptively selfish and it all seems to (somewhat) work out.

So instead of acknowledging our objective insignificance, we’ve built enormous structures on this fault. Things like vanity and religion. Erected with the sole purpose to convince us that we’re worthy. As if someone’s keeping track. As if there is an objective path we should be taking.

Chasing acceptance through every trend and empty promise leaves the conscious mind exhausted. It turns out, yearning is cognitively expensive. We get identity fatigue.

It’s a chronic illness but we do have recourse.

Unpack it.

Shed that self and retire the notion of should. Then watch as the universe ticks.

It will go on without that self.

And so will you.

via Radical Authenticity

A Note on Truth — September 29, 2016

A Note on Truth

I was in the shower when the thought struck. I reached for the bottle of off brand conditioner and squeezed a portion into my hand. What does it mean to believe? My mind taunted. I responded casually, because this kind of thing happens a lot in this context. Something about the hot water and white noise seems to fire up the abstract thought. So prompted by this open-ended question from my unconscious mind, I presented myself a thought experiment to tussle with.

If someone jizzed in this conditioner bottle, how would I know? It was a repugnant question, but I was ready to go down the rabbit hole. I guess I would inspect it. Identify it. But at what time during the sequence of me squeezing it into my hand, squinting at my fingers, parted from each other, studying the consistency–at what point do I decide: Yes! Someone jizzed in this, what a fucking nightmare, someone get me some bleach?

What tips the scales of sureness?

Is it a certain amount of variables present? A particular pattern my brain recognizes? A correspondence and integration of prior trials with questionable white substances? What’s going on here?

Undoubtedly, there are times the mind screams Yes! It accepts a truth with conviction and sureness. It forms a belief. But what are the building blocks of perception in this moment that trigger such a distinct response? How many things are considered, how many calculations made–conscious or not to produce that moment of Yes? I bet it’s more than we think. I bet it’s a lot.

Which leads us to a meditation on free will. If the process of belief is conjured by unconscious processes, by a mass calculation inside a single moment, then there’s just no way we can honestly say we control it. But what an ugly thing to say: you don’t control your beliefs. It just really feels like you do. It’s a patently unpopular idea. At least at this point in layman philosophy.

But as unpopular as it may be, it’s the truth. You don’t control any of it. Your brain does it’s thing–some of which you can see–some of which you can’t–and you perceive a rendition of the process. However narrow this slice of reality may be, it’s your experience. Your world. But not “yours” in any real way. Just there to bear witness to. Just there to observe.

Belief fits perfectly into the puzzle. It’s but an experience we have in real time–like getting a soaker, or receiving a kiss. A wave of essence in the fabric of reality. Belief is a process of the brain, and many of her disparate structures. So the answer to the riddle is this: maybe it doesn’t matter. You’ll never know what tips the scales of belief. I will either recognize that foreign white substance or I will not. There are two outcomes. Mutually exclusive.

The fallacy comes in the narrative. That story you tell yourself directly after the casual shift. “I know because.” This story breeds the illusion of control. Even though there’s no control. Life’s just a big ‘ol board game with 7 billion players. Let’s roll the dice.

A Quick Service — March 26, 2015

A Quick Service

I have to do a service to myself and journal about a good day for once. Because today was pretty swell. Everything was pretty whatever until I hit up restorative yoga in the evening. I learned how to settle into a deeper state of relaxation that was toeing the line of meditation towards the end of the session. It was an enormous exhale for an hour and fifteen and I felt like quality human being walking out of there.

What’s better is that the frame of mind actually lasted. I walked to the bus stop in a blissful stillness that seemed so fundamentally me. Whatever that means. I supplemented the mid frame with some Above & Beyond progressive trance which paired real nicely.

I may be glimpsing the true value of mindfulness and meditation. Up until this point these practices have acted more as a subtle retraction from stress. But today was different. It was like I tinkered with the systems and found a blow-off valve in great need of release and cranked that sucker wide open. Thoughts arose and fell with little emotional charge and I felt like I could sequence through ideas with intention and fluidity.

I’ll for sure be seeking to recreate today’s experience. Stay tuned for an update, my dear blog.

I Want My Cake — March 17, 2015

I Want My Cake

Over the past little while I have become increasingly aware of my compulsive attitude towards pleasure and distress. I, as I suspect is the case for many, oscillate between a wide variance of positive and negative emotional states which ultimately dictate my cognitive ones. Happiness gives rise to creativity and higher speeds of mental processing. Sadness brings with it anxiety and slow, cloudy thinking. I do my best to usher in the former state in times of emotional normality but usually to no avail. It seems not like a mere act of will that accelerates my consciousness into a positive operative. Instead I simply bear witness and let polarizing thoughts battle it out for the power seat.

I’ll have my cake, but I’ll eat it too. And this represents the fundamental fallacy on which I’ve built my conception of life, at least as it relates to my own pleasure and distress.

I’m on the brink of what I’ve convinced myself is the most important transition of my life. I have heard countless times in my life: “wait till you join the real world,” in reference to what I can only infer is what these people perceive to be the working world. From their accounts it’s a place of unrelenting stress that you take head on as you muster yourself through a storm of insecurity towards some idyllic island paradise you’ve glimpsed only in your dreams; almost  as if the shores of this paradise are an actual place you might someday bury your toes after a lifetime of perseverance. Whether this paradise manifests as some existential heaven beyond the confines of this world or as a black convertible Mercedes within this one, I just don’t buy the concept.

Deep down I know that suffering is mind made. But I also know that through some collective backwards mandate society has likened this darkness to a sort of prerequisite for happiness. It’s this whole “suffer now, prosper later” mentality that perpetuates this madness and what’s scariest of all is that it’s fundamental to our society. Suffer now? All I have in this world is now. Surely I know by now that everything I ever cared about pursuing has inevitably fallen into a category of stuff and things I used to care enough about to chase. Until I obtained that stuff and those things and more stuff and things emerged on the horizon, beyond my grasp, luring me with their gestures of deception. It’s no wonder that when you finally acquire wealth you squander it on status symbols to remind yourself of the days when you suffered and couldn’t boast such luxuries.

How would my parents react if I told them I’m more interested in booking a silent meditation retreat than I am in visiting the employment office. That I’d rather sit in solitude to learn about the nature of consciousness than hurl myself into the economic machine that will soon become the easiest means of defining me?

It’s not to say that I don’t want to work and contribute to the world because I do. I just don’t want to wade into this realm with the broken philosophy that objects and status is where my happiness, and therefore my identity, lays. That’s a broken mentality, I know it. And I haven’t successfully de-tangled from the twenty years of conditioning I’ve received from society, spoon feeding me this poisonous ideology. I’ve hardly located one end of the string.

Until I gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be happy, I will remain very cautious about devoting the vast majority of time and attention to one goal. Until I truly grasp the profundity that emanates from “being here now,” all other pursuits will remain pale in value. How do I reconcile my resistance against the system with my human pursuits of self-sustainability and romantic affection? I can no longer compartmentalize my life the way many people do. I scoff at a life neatly divided into personal and professional, recreation and work. There’s a beauty inside that I don’t want to oppress by buying into the casino we call society, wherein breaking even at the tables means you did okay. I aspire for more than just okay, and without using the typical instruments of wealth and status for measure. That means decoupling my concept of well-being from the items that promise such a thing. Where do I start?

IDEx 2015 — March 1, 2015

IDEx 2015

I just got back from the Innovation and Design Expo I helped host with the IDM League and I’m feeling.. insecure. It seems the more I learn about creative industries and the widely variable opportunities within them, the less focused my goals get. For a long time I’ve been aware that students feel pressure while transitioning out of school but now I’m actually living it. And it’s one of those things that hits just as hard whether you saw it coming or not.

There were so many great things about today. I shook many hands, made several contacts and felt viscerally inspired at several points during the conference. Alina Kulesh was even more welcoming than I expected and I was able to network with her a little bit from the outset. She gave a short but punchy presentation about new-age storytelling and how the production industry uses it as a vehicle for its marketing. At one point she talked about needing to know what 11 year olds are up to in order to help Coke increase their sales in younger demographics. When I lead her out to catch her cab she encouraged me to e-mail her. I’m debating setting up an information interview but I’m a little conflicted. At any rate, there’s a whole culture around professional networking and it was cool to navigate that for a day.

Shane Saunderson gave the final keynote address. He’s a farm boy from Manitoba who’s now head of health devices at Idea Couture. He’s highly educated, a compelling public speaker and an all around professional. Young too. And he talked about design thinking. About how you cultivate creativity and in turn, innovation. He talked about fully immersing yourself in other situations and social contexts as a means to deeper understand the human experience, leveraging that knowledge to create new design. He talked about taking several streams of information, be it market research, anthropological research, professional interviews, combining these streams of information to complement each other, and then designing using this as a precedent. He mentioned how he develops board games for his clients to play because they seem to shed their preconceived notions and social anxiety while playing. Apparently this leads to creative discourse and fresh ideas with considerable corporate carry-over. CEO’s solve their corporate troubles by rolling the dice. Seems almost poetic.

But upon reflection I feel vulnerable. The more I open my mind to possibility the muddier my foresight gets. It’s not that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I have ideas. I have lot’s of them. But what I don’t have is the adhesive to bind them. I’m trying to assemble my life but I just keep obtaining huge pieces when what I really need are nuts and bolts. I need the brackets to fasten these lofty ideas together. My mind is chaos, And it’s exhausting.

Overwhelming is probably a better word. It’s that feeling of getting bombarded with information at a speed too fast to integrate. I’m trying to steer this thing in a good direction but life’s yelling directions in my ear too fast to comprehend. I navigate with a painful vigilance for error. But that error might not be so easy to see.

And all the while I can’t help but feel this theme of divergence emerging in my life. I no longer relate. No aunty Patti, I do not want to watch Suits. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore and no I don’t know why. I feel alienated by my own evolution of thinking and evaporation of beliefs. I’m a stranger to my own mind.

Sometimes I like to equate my thinking to a camera lens. Mostly I walk around with a wide angle lens, completely zoomed out. I’m thinking about the future of religion, war, technology, happiness, all as it relates to the human race. I swim in an ocean of lofty ideals, of which I never seem to integrate on a personal level. And upon realizing I’m failing to do so, I pin that zoom toggle to the max. Then I’m thinking about the nature of every passing thought, de-constructing them, hyper-vigilant for insight. Why do I think this way? I ask. Do others think like me? I wonder. Can I hush the thoughts for a moment and wallow in stillness? And then before I know it I’m zoomed all the way out again.

I don’t want a “job”, I want a life. I want a vehicle to follow the muse wherever she decides to go. I want the courage to step beyond the invisible lines in the sand and dig my toes into new earth. Saunderson talked about having too deflective of a mind to stay in one place, to lock down a job in an old school consulting agency. He wanted to follow his interest. And now he uses design thinking as his means to do so. He gets paid to share the creative insights he gathers through an intelligent and worldly perspective. A worldly perspective perpetuated by the company’s dime. That’s the life.

It just seems ridiculous to try and forge a career when the idea of who I am becomes more and more obscured. The truth is, I don’t know why I think the way I think, I don’t know if there’s any objective value in the way I think, I don’t know the factors mediating changes in my thoughts and I don’t know if I can think my way into a more secure operative. Maybe thinking is the problem and I should meditate more. Or maybe I should stop wasting time and simply “get after it”. Or maybe I should just stop writing and go to bed.

This post began as a reflection on IDEx and ended as a plea for understanding. My whole life teeters on this plea and only I can answer to it.

My Name and my Pain — January 20, 2015

My Name and my Pain

Who is the I that wants?

What is the thing receiving my thoughts?

Who is the that that says “do more”?

Where is the portal through which I’ll explore?

When is it best to throw in the towel?

When is it time to limp to the gallows?

Who decides when I live beyond form?

And who is it exactly the people will mourn?

I wallow in space and claim things for my own.

I try to save face and find skills I could hone.

I trade you a smile for a smile within,

But I cry five times for each time that I grin.

But still yet I scream elated and brimming,

to feel for a moment that somehow I’m winning.

But the truth is I’m not and there’s really no game,

just me and my thoughts and my name and my pain.

A Familiar Cell — January 11, 2015

A Familiar Cell

He dragged the heels of his boots down the polished concrete hallway. Iron barred cells floated by peripherally as he stared down into infinity. The hallway never ended, and he knew that. But he stared anyways. And he walked. And he gripped a gathering of his jacket over his defeated shoulder.

The cells were empty and the doors were open. And yellow light spilled from the hanging bell shaped fixtures. Every once in a while, as he walked, one of the flickering lights would expire. A shadow would puddle on the hallway and the adjacent cells would blacken. He’d stand in the shadow and admire the break in infinity. He’d turn and enter one of the dark spaces, strip off his jacket and overalls and lay for a while. He’d sleep until he woke, get up, gather his clothes and walk across the hall to the other cell. He’d sleep there for a while too. When he awoke for the second time, he’d get up, step into his overalls and slide back into his dusty jacket, and he’d walk some more.

The man stopped and let his jacket fall into a messy pile beside his feet. He turned around and looked down the hallway behind him. No sign of flickering. He turned back in the direction he was walking. Solid light. He ran his thick palm up his forehead, spread his hand, and ran his dirty fingers through his long grey hair. He cupped his chin and dragged his fist through his long beard. The lights buzzed overhead. The man stepped into the threshold of the nearest cell, turned around and stood. He gripped the iron bars and reefed the door shut. The metal shrieked in protest. The man stepped out of his boots, his overalls, pulled off his socks and slid down his underwear. He descended to the cold concrete with the labored movement of an old man, although he couldn’t be sure exactly how old he was. He sprawled out belly down, closed his eyes, and he slept.