Playing what you are dealt

IMG_0024There is an irony in the way that we both look to others to validate all of our choices, and now use social proof as a proxy for trustworthiness and the way that we compare ourselves to others and an ideal and so often find ourselves lacking. I was watching an Oprah Life Lesson video and they said that ‘comparison is an act of violence against the self’. I found that fascinating, especially given that so many of us compare ourselves so often and find ourselves lacking in so many ways. Especially how we often stack the deck against ourselves.

We compare our size, shape and ‘beauty’ to supermodels and airbrushed celebrities, our academic accomplishments against Fulbright scholars and our kindness and sociability to fictitious characters from a variety of medias. There is an impossibility in measuring up, and yet the message pervades- supposedly ‘spurring’ us to accomplishment. Somehow I feel like that is fitting, because we often forget that spurs cause pain, and horses run faster in an attempt to get away from the stimulus, not because all of a sudden they have re-discovered their intrinsic joy in running.

I feel like the current generation of 20 somethings have been told to rely on each other, and trust something only if others are doing it, and yet fall in this catch 22 that trips them up over and over when those comparisons end in finding something lacking themselves. How can we attempt to find our own intrinsic motivations when so many of our actions and perceptions are based on our reaction to the others around us and how similar, or different we are to them (especially when all of that is based in a competitive paradigm?)

Dipping a toe in

ImageSo I haven’t written for a long time. Honestly I was a little afraid to. This is the first time my brain hasn’t belonged soley to me, and I was worried that I might talk about things I shouldn’t. It took me a long time to sort out the thoughts that now belonged to my employer and those that I know are completely my own and I am therefore freely allowed to talk about.

The distinction was/is important not because I am afraid of the consequences, but because I really do love my company and I would hate to make a mistake that would harm it in any way. I think that makes a difference, one’s intentions?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot too, whether individuals’ intentions should count, as well as the results of those intentions. It is so hard to assign responsibility to an agent, because not only are you never sure they are being honest with the outside world as to why they did whatever it was they did, but because it is unclear if they are even able to be honest with themselves.

I had some trouble with that this year, that my intentions were unclear to other people, and their intentions were unclear to me, and we didn’t have any common language to talk about it, despite the fact that we were speaking the same words with roughly the same accent. Ironic then that this was precisely our undoing, because although the words were the same denotation, the connotation was a vast and otherised world of culture and historical understanding.

*The biggest problem with Google translate is names. The same person has differently spelled names in different languages. Each group learns who that person is to their particular group, fascinating, because by definition (literally) they are different to each group of people and named thus. Different words for the same concept or the same word for different concepts.

You will also see that my spelling can’t decide which continent I am on. Maybe because I still have two UK keyboards, and the rest are all US English. Did you know there is not a #hashtag symbol on a UK board? Every time I want to use it I have to search/ remember the right keystroke combination. Makes Twitter all that much more fun and time consuming.

We have so many things to discuss! They have been slightly bottled up, but my ideas are now itching to come out, and it is time. Fear, misogyny, oppression, the tensions inherent in life! (I found  a place that has made me less afraid to use exclamation points. I really am that excited and happy most of the time, why is it bad to share that? (yes, I understand the oversaturation of a market now but regardless…)

I’m now officially half Mac half PC. Migrating everything to a third party cloud is a pain, but hopefully allows a more seamless transition between the two. And there I am, sounding like the little commercial I am becoming. Oh! Commodification and commoditization. Those are on the list as well.

I should admit, that my surroundings, and some of the topics I think about during the day for other people do inflect my own thinking at home, and my understanding of the world and of other people. I try to make sure that the altitude at which I’m thinking is decidedly different but sometimes it can be hard to separate. There may be cross polination. All my ideas here though are my own. That is important to know, especially if I offend anyone. ALL VIEWS ARE MY OWN AND IN NO WAY REFLECT ANYTHING ABOUT MY EMPLOYER. (I’m now wondering if I should be putting that on the homepage). I’ve been thinking about Capitalism a lot. And hierarchy. And inevitably power. That does mean law, but it also means something else much less tangible.

I will also say that I spent part of that time scared and silent. I’m not even really sure of what but I do know that I felt under threat. From lots of people (most of them men), and myself (which may or may not indicate my own projection). I made people mad, unintentionally, honestly by mistake, attempting to make something better, but I was threatening anyway. I’m still not sure if I was a threat to specific people? Or to a system itself. And I’m beginning to think that a threat to the system is a threat to the people. I do know that in reality they had no idea who I was, or what I was doing, or why, but they did not hesitate to come down quickly and hard. I thought I had already proven myself, I thought they knew who I was, but I overestimated someone (unclear if it was myself or others) and it all ended in tears (mostly those were mine).

There were others though that were threatened not by any action on my part, but on my existing and the sudden realization that I was not what they expected. I was more powerful, and less willing to watch silently, or drop my standards of you. The threat was probably still existential, but people who previously had sought to ‘protect’ me now were coming for me. And it made me distrust the protection. Was it about me? Or was it about the object I was?

But I battle through, mostly because I don’t know what else to do. I am becoming less afraid of angering people again. Remembering that if they will be that angry and act in whatever way results then I’m not sure it is a good relationship in the first place and so I need not be sorry to lose them, and I honestly have little to fear.

Zen is good.

Shots of Awe is also good, and mind blowing. I have to listen to things several times to follow the bibliography through genre let alone author which allows me to feel my own mortality. (which most likely sounds either crazy or poetic, although we are into asides like a fiend already so what the hell)

This may be the closest to what it is like inside my head, with all the thoughts going round, jumping from one topic to the next, seemingly unconnected. I promise if you stick with it long enough the patterns will start to become clear, and you might even see yourself in my little dia-Tribe. I will attempt to illuminate the pattern as clearly as I can, although I have been told I speak in vague generalities. Mostly that is because I try to personalize with examples close to each individual, but I’m growing more remote from where people live and less able to quickly translate concepts to local concrete. In attempting to encompass the widest audience that will also be a challenge. I’ll try to have as broad a cross section as I can, or define my terms, or make the archetypal representation as close to mythological as possible. It would help too if you could let me know when I’m not making sense (y’know with respect and caring and stuff) or ask for clarification.

So I’ll scurry back to my white board cave. And let you digest/ percolate on that while I try to decide on a more coherent topic for future.

What if? I mean really, what if?

10-04-07_0604So I have been thinking about fear. I realized that fear is a backdrop in this country more than many other places I have been. The individualist bent that underpins our society has a concurrent theme that means if we screw up, unless we are lucky enough to have family or friends with means to help us we are totally screwed. I was told by a financial planner that the number of people who worry they will end up homeless is kind of surprising.

That is a product of no (or very little) safety net. In some ways I can agree that it does often spur a different level of innovation and a higher level of drive than many other places because no one will do it for you, and the quality and tenor of ones life is totally self-motivated.

The problem that exacerbates this ideology though, and can take it to a very different place, is the hyper capitalism of the early 21st century. The underlying message of almost all commercial interactions is that we should be afraid. We are different, or not enough, or could be better (which pretty much all means the same thing) and if we purchased x, y, or z, product we could be safer by fitting in, being more efficient, getting to the place we ‘should’ be. That ‘should’ place is the dangerous element. Because in reality it can never exist. If we all actually got to the place of having everything right we would all relax, because we would have achieved what ever it is we thought we needed to do. So it is in fact an impossibility to achieve that place. We can run as hard as we want, we may even appear to get closer, but there will always be another brass ring to grasp, another lap to go, another person to pass.

These dual dynamics exist in our collective unconscious, driving us all, creating amazing progress in technology, communication and potential. The tragedy of history (as W Benjamin says) is that somehow all of the progress improves our material positions, but never gives us the peace of mind that we really desire.

Is a child perfect if they can fulfill everyones’ extrinsic goals for him, but can’t decide what he wants with a blue sky horizon? That he is only capable of choosing between options? That he can’t challenge the options themselves?

And what of his brother, who sees the falsity of the choices he is offered, but doesn’t have the language or power to point out how unfulfilling those choices have been for his parents?

The irony of all of it, is that in the end we are the only ones capable of soothing the self, but we can only really do that when we try to let go of the markers we are supposed to be achieving