Thoughts about the past, the present and the future

I wonder if loneliness felt all the more encompassing before the benefit of modern technology? More than it does now?

Or if those same communicative possibilities at present day have enabled another but no less significant kind of loneliness?

Most likely the last one. Spike Jonze’s “Her” certainly showed a future dealing with those exact matters. A scaringly close and all too realistic future – if it is not already here in some form: Our ‘personal’ computers, tailor-made operating systems, i-this and i-that in every product title. People looking down at the face of their screen rather than up at the faces of the people around them.

And I’m right there among them. Perhaps not with my phone glued to my hand (I rarely use it in public, actually), but to my computer, interacting more with it than with any person I know. I’m close to addicted; getting frustrated when I cannot get to my computer, yet briefly liberated when I’m forced away from it (on vacations etc.) and yet again relieved when I return home to it. Almost as if it was a toxic relationship; not quite love nor hate nor both, but simply an addiction. I’m sure I could manage a ‘rehab’ but I’m not all for it either. And I’m far from the only one. Whether that addiction is good or bad is still vehemently debated, but it does little to the fact that we are all but fully connected to/immersed with our technology, the digital sphere and the Internet in practically every corner of society.

How often has our generation not asked ourselves the question: “What did we/I do before the Internet?”

Initially, we laugh it off as a joke, but there’s something eerily nagging in that question still, isn’t there?

Because if we honestly cannot remember the daily life of a society before our fusion with (online) technology on this scale, what does that tell us of that society and the one we have now – or the one to come?

I do not have the answer – simply because I keep asking this myself. In some ways it becomes closely related to Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott’s ambiguous questions surrounding replicants in the end of “Blade Runner”: In this close fusion, what is human and what is robot? And what do we even define as human?

That was in the ’80s, seen through a dystopian, futuristic view. Today we could argue we already live in a transhuman world. I’ll recommend reading Donna Haraway’s insanely interesting and relevant essay A Cyborg Manifesto to expand on this thought.

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Bouts of self-doubt

For all my grand proclamations about the act of writing (which in itself is still true and pure), I am beginning to wonder if I am writing this blog to avoid my life (and use it as an excuse to avoid my life) or if I am only really trying to understand myself and mature as a human being?

*shrugs* I have my bouts of self-doubt … You may have noticed.

René Descartes said “Conquer yourself rather than the world”. Is that what I am doing here or am I only fooling myself?

Once again with the introspection and stubborn independence. When no one tells it to your face that (if) you are on the wrong course (except the odd reaction every now and then, but, honestly, I’m used to those), how are you supposed to know any different that what you tell yourself?

That sounds like the recipe for a madman, I know, but isn’t everyone saying that you should learn to listen to yourself? (That is, not if you hear voices). I have listened to the advice of others, but I mostly went with my gut feeling. I usually tell things as they are and have begun to share more honest feelings about myself to others. I feel liberated as well as empty, because even though I lay myself out there on the slaughter board; sort of ‘pre-ridicule’ and accept myself, my flaws and my antics, at the same contradictory time, I am usually left with so little response of any kind that I’m beginning to wonder what it is all worth. Even though it still gives me pride to have come to this on the road to self-discovery, I cannot help feeling left bereft by the persistent lack of response or interest from those around me. Nothing has changed, only on the inside, it seems.

But maybe it shouldn’t? Maybe I shouldn’t be so peeved about the lack of response from the outside world, because that’s not what’s really important?

Yet, as I observed about my parents, when those around you don’t even pick up on your – for once – very vocalized, honest ‘self-observations’, then how are you to go from there? Maybe I’m once again misunderstood; people shrugging and dismissing it for being my usual eccentricity and where all my ‘witty’ self-deprecation backfires?

No, I know the world doesn’t revolve around me (easily mistaken assumption when reading a one-woman’s confessional blog), but you do measure yourself in others as well as yourself, and if you are only left with yourself – no matter how self-assure you are otherwise – you easily begin to doubt.

Each step I take on this road is a personal accomplishment, I feel, leaving me with new if not more awareness and doubts about each of these and any future steps.

That’s human existence for you. An eternal existential crisis, whether big or small. And crisis and doubts are not necessarily bad if you ask the old philosophers and the existentialists. It’s just paradoxical as hell (or more like purgatory) and you’ll just have to live with it and laugh at/with it. Story of my life. I’m always suspicious of people who are too happy anyway. I’ve come across people my age who are insanely intelligent and sharp yet have these troubling observations about life while keeping on a ‘happy face’ mask. Like they don’t want to outwardly show how they truly feel on the inside. It silently freaks me out. Ironically, I sometimes fear I come across like that myself.

But stating having only self-doubt to battle with sounds awfully pathetic. I don’t even have that hard a life; I’m frightfully privileged in an upper-middle class, white, Western, average sort of way; the ways of modernity filled with stress and ambition and the quest for perfection never really getting to me. I have either managed to avoid it all, more or less, or I am just that cool. Hm. I’ve concluded that my life mostly have consisted of mere luck and coincidence besides this. The choices I have made have never been something to write home about, despite what I’ve achieved personally for my own sense of self. All this may happen or ‘collapse’ when I’m finished with uni and gets into the real world. *shudders*

Having spend a quarter of my life in the educational system, being fed, taught and supported by it like it was a surrogate mother, I feel more than a little lost by the thought of leaving its nest. Ambivalent at best. Yet, I feel it is a natural state of progress and I do not fear it as such. The “It will be all right, you’ll see”-attitude is highly integrated in my country’s culture (practically untranslatable to other languages/cultures) and I have a severe case of it. Nothing can really get to you if you have this natural attitude. And though it can leave you with a disturbingly relaxed disposition to many major life decisions, it also leaves you almost lost of feeling regarding what will happen to your own life. The line between “Oh, it’ll be all right” to “Well, it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it?” is very fine. Soon you’re only left with modernity’s frightful inertia and depressive helplessness. (Okay, that became unintentionally dark.) And it’s not like you don’t care. You have it all too well with your creature comforts and would be sad to see them go, but you also tend to not be able to cope with saving the world and deal with the injustice despite how much you care about the downtrodden, so you just stay under the covers and make another cup of noodles. *scoffs* I’m such a coward.

I know I’m prone to depressive tendencies whenever I become too aware of myself and the world … result of spending too much time alone perhaps. But being out in the public doesn’t necessarily help either. Momentarily perhaps, if I’m in good company, but almost as soon as I get home to be alone and in peace, the quiet content’s shadow side is also ennui. I’ve been alone all my life so loneliness doesn’t scare me as such, but I still feel unfulfilled in life. However, I cannot believe that happiness or all your solutions necessarily are found in the company of another. I believe you’ll still have your basic human loneliness (after all, you haven’t erased or escaped yourself just by being in a relationship with another person, have you?) and that you still have to deal with being in a relationship with yourself 24/7. I may be running away from my ‘problem’ now, but running into a relationship for a solution doesn’t seem fruitful either.

I believe life to be like ying and yang; that happiness always will have a naturally balanced side of melancholy and that you will have to accept them both. Most people struggle with this or either sides, but what happens when you have accepted both? Have you finally found peace or, at least, the road to it? It may just be my tendency to look at things from a slightly negative, critical perspective, but I think you’re also left with a lack of struggle in life, so to speak. Not that I wish for trouble and chaos to rain down on me in order to feel something, but when you only have yourself to struggle with it, the fuse quickly runs short. And it is here it becomes pathetic because it isn’t really a problem, is it? Yes, you can always doubt yourself and your decisions. That existential struggle I have accepted on a daily basis while also trying to forget or avoid or handle it or whatever I do by, well, writing this blog, reading books, listening to music, watching movies and TV shows, wallowing in self-pity etc.; everything to make the time go by while not trying to think about what I could have done differently or should be doing right now. It’s not like I’m even looking for solutions, because I’m not sure what my problem is besides existing like everyone else and being pathetic doing it. It’s not very mature, is it? Though we may all be doing this more or less frequently in our lives, most people pull themselves together out of necessity and duty and face their daily responsibilities, even though they are not always overjoyed to do so. I try to do so as well – basically in order to function in modern society – but I still seem to go right back to this catatonic state of powerlessness and ponderings like any ancient Greek philosopher probably once found himself in.

*sighs*

Maybe all this is simply the paradox of existence and I have talked myself into a circle. Wouldn’t be the first time.

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Sometimes I look at myself from the outside

In spite of all my inward self-discovery lately, I fear at times that I appear more arrogant that I intend to be. (Not that I ever intended to appear arrogant in the first place).

But what is arrogance? Being confident? Sarcastic? Aloof? Cynic? Superior? Elitist? Oppinionated? Stubborn? Where do you draw the line based on an impression?

I recently (and reluctantly) watched a snippet of one of my dad’s recent home videos of the family and it shocked me to see that in the clip I appeared to put on airs in a rather dislikable manner. However, my own recollection of this episode was that I was disconcerted by my dad’s ‘invisible-yet-all-the-more-in-your-face’-filming of us and instantly put up a front of flippant, snide sarcasm to seem, well, cool, I guess. I think I do it a lot. And not just because I have this pet peeve when people don’t vocalize that they are about to photograph or film me. I use sarcasm/irony as a filter in various contexts; it’s like a second nature to me. A weapon. I do it to make sense of myself and the world – and to protect myself. I just never really realized how obvious it is. That, or I simply look and seem utterly and genuinely arrogant.

I’ve doubted whether I really am arrogant or not, based on this and other responses I’ve gotten throughout the years. But I know that deep down – despite of all the little superiority and diva complexes – I could never be truly arrogant to those I am around (well, as long as I like them, which is most of the time). I’m too self-deprecating or self-aware to be so. I am too curious, humble (although that statement always seems counterproductive) and naive about my fellow man, believing – perhaps too often – in the good in people before anything else. Not necessarily in the way they act towards me, but inherently. The problem is: I’m not arrogant, I’m distracted (or I seem ‘aloof’ as most people describe INTPs). Distracted by everything I know and am aware of – and everything I have yet to know and become of aware of – and I try to take all that into account. The poet William Cowper once said: “Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more”. Ironically, you could say I’m distracted by my awareness and staying aware. So distracted that I appear uncaring or poker-faced or whatever – and thus arrogant. I don’t know if I truly have a pokerface. Naturally, I’ve not had a chance to observe myself from the outside – unless I watch a video of myself where I’m unaware that I’m being filmed (which are fewer than a few). When I know I’m being filmed the above-mentioned episode happens; I instantly put up a front – like a petulant, squirmy child.

I’ve doubted so much that I started using this possible arrogant appearance to explain why people stay away, don’t find me memorable and never become emotionally invested in me (I know, that isn’t a one-way street, but as an INTP I’m not always aware that I may not seem emotionally invested even if I am). Maybe in an overall view, this may be true, but I’ve also come to realize that those people perhaps just weren’t meant to be in your life or they were too ignorant and prejudiced to give it a chance or it was simply bad luck. How will you ever know, anyway? What is most important are those who care and show interest. I’m learning to be more expressive about such things myself, because even if I feel it I need to show it in order to receive something in return. It sounds silly, written like that, doesn’t it? But sometimes I need to write it down like a manual for dummies or notes to myself in order to get it into my head. I may know it already, yet too often I take it for granted. I’m awkward and stumbling along the way, but I try my best to get out my distracted head and show some personal investment in the immediate world around me, be a little less hypocritical and self-absorbed.

Something happened just this day that made me doubt again, fearing ‘the air of arrogance’ had returned. Little things; like people not getting why I had decided to drop a volunteer job I had had for over two years despite I smiled and explained why (even apologized), some of the new volunteers not looking me in the eyes (but apparently everybody else’s), etc.. Ugh, sorry for the petty venting. It’s not something I usually do, but it illustrates a pattern of almost similar occurences throughout my life and the simmering feeling of doubt I have that I may appear different on the outside to those around me than what I think. And not in a good way. Today, by chance, it led to one depressive thought after another and somehow I got ahead of myself and concluded that nobody really cared much for me or liked me. Silly me, getting all insecure and possibly drawing the wrong conclusions too fast. Because then I came home and realized people do care, people do remember me. An old friend I haven’t heard from in a long time called to say hi and my mom called because she has become all excited about a potential job offer for me after uni. I returned the gestures, listened and thanked them, respectively. I finally sent a much belated postcard to an elder in the family and wrote a message to another old friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time. I’m awful at keeping personal tabs and initiate immediate, emotional support to those around me – simply because I take the show of outward support for granted (though that doesn’t exclude the fact that I feel for them and am willing to lend them a friendly ear). Once again; it isn’t enough that I know that I care for people, I need to show it as well. And just because I feel I’m not particularly good at showing it in the expected ways, I should still just do it – even though it feels awkward and stilted and doesn’t come entirely natural to me. As I’ve said before, this is a battle with myself – a life-long project that I cannot give up.

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Notes from a night owl

Thoughts come best to me at night.

I have the impractical feature of brain activity at night time and (everything) passivity in the daytime. At least impractical in a world built for early birds.

But first and foremost, I (or let’s blame it on my brain) have a frustrating tendency to come up with all the pearls of wisdom at the stage right before I fall asleep. Thus I’ll never get to write them down because, well, I’m asleep the next minute. Sometimes I manage to force myself to rise, turn on the light and write them down, but it is an awfully exhausting feat for head, eyes and body so close to sleep. Often I don’t even manage to write anything down because all the ‘words of wisdom’ tumbled across each other in my head, hardly taking permanent shape or form before they vanished again and made way for new ones. That’s the way associative thinking rolls. Combined with the night owl tendencies, it’s a ‘hearty’ cocktail.

It frustrates me to no end that I can come up with so many great points, sentences, arguments, etc. when I am nearly unconscious but not when I am awake and that I have not been able to remember or recreate even half of them the next morning.

In general, I take to doing most of my ‘work’ at night. It just suits me better. I will not get interrupted by phone calls, noises of traffic and people outside my door and no scheduled meetings to attend to. Most of the city is asleep. The tranquility is blissful, to be honest.

And it’s not like I cannot wake up early if I have to (I got my fair share throughout high school) or that I cannot enjoy early mornings; I’m simply not built for waking up at such ungodly hours.

And why this general shaming of night owls anyway? Just because we go to bed late and wake up late, doesn’t automatically equals that we’re lazy asses (well, not all of us). I’ve known early birds who can be equally lazy – if not more. Often more impatient and less adaptable to be going off course than I’ve known night owls to be. But that may be a variable.

My point is: It’s actually unhealthy to fight against your natural circadian rhythm. Would you know, people are built differently inside out, internal clocks and all!

Why should we always adjust to society and not the other way around for once? Most jobs are situated around the 9 to 5 working hours, unless you work the night shift at some rather specific job station. Though B-people may be more adaptable, it’s certainly no thrill to adjust to a lifetime of 9 to 5 working hours. Especially if you’re just no good that early in the morning (even with a generous fill of caffeine). Would it be so hard to be a bit more lenient towards such matters when we’re talking about a global phenomenon (what are we? Half the planet, more or less?)? It certainly would make the world for us B-people a lot easier to wake up to.

And hereby endeth the rant.

In the middle of night.

*sighs*

I should go to bed.

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On writing 2.0 (Authors’ Edition)

Why do I write?

I write to understand. I write to escape. I write to reflect on life. I write because I have a voice within that cannot be still.

To quote some of the greats:

“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”

Nicole Krauss

“I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things.”

Susan Sontag

“I write as if I’ve lived a lot of things I haven’t lived.”

Margaret Atwood

“It just happens to be the way that I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.”

Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself … It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”

— Harper Lee

“A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.”

Orphan Pamuk

“It didn’t occur to me that my books would be widely read at all, and that enabled me to write anything I wanted to. And even once I realized that they were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That’s how one has to write anyway—in secret.”

Louise Erdrich

“When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.”

Maya Angelou

“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.”

— Gao Xingjian

“Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.”

— Anaïs Nin

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.”

Elie Wiesel

“I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”

Anne Frank

“Why am I compelled to write? . . . Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger . . . To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit . . . Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.”

— Gloria E. Anzaldúa

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

Virginia Woolf

“You ask me why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason…?
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.”

Sylvia Plath

And to finish with the always wonderfully astute and sharp Hannah Arendt (hey, she was an INTP, after all 😉 :

“I’d say the most important thing for me is to understand. Writing is an integral part of the process of understanding. You ask about the effect my work has on others. If I may speak ironically, that’s a masculine question. Men always want to be influential. Do I see myself as influential? No, I want to understand.”*

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