Big Data & The State

July 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

I just finished reading a interesting article about the data that the newer versions of the Roomba and other “robovac” brands are able to collect and then send to their manufacturer. Apparently the Roomba is now capable of knowing things like:

 the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points

There’s no denying how creepy that sounds. And apparently this ability is a part of a larger business model (go figure) which would allow robovac manufacturers to sell the data to other tech firms and advertisers. For example:

Do you have a large room that’s practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.

Weird, right? And although for the time being this data may seem more or less harmless (it’s just a fucking Roomba, right?) the larger trend of “big data” being used by large tech firms is somewhat discouraging.

While reading this article I was reminded of an interview with Tor founder Jacob Applebaum from a few years ago. I wish I could find it (edit: found something pretty similar here) but the basic idea was that as people blindly accepted the “terms of agreement” on every social media app and piece of technology that they use they were legally agreeing to rather grievous privacy invasions. The wave of “big data” provided by robot vacuums seems to be another angle through which a small number of organizations are gaining control of a seriously large amount of personal information.

But the real danger to individual liberty isn’t Amazon selling the floor plan of your home to advertisers on Facebook. The danger is the state getting a hold of this information. NSA, CIA, etc. Thanks to Edward Snowden we’re well aware of the illegal privacy invasions of American intelligence agencies. To what extent do these organization already have their dirty hands on the personal information collected by these private companies? How long until these bureaucratic agencies grow so much that they come to take control of the entire big data enterprise for their own nefarious ends? What happens if the immense power of the American intelligence agencies falls into the wrong hands? Are there any “good” hands?

There seems to be a number of very dangerous political currents in the western world at the moment. Some of these currents believe that they oppose the others but in fact they feed into each other in an incredibly dangerous fashion. The American far left wants to silence dissent and the American intelligence officialdom has the tools to do exactly that. The only question that remains is who will choose which ideas are “dissenting” and thus worthy of silencing. The answer is simple: whoever has the data, has the power.


On Bringing Light From The Darkness

July 25, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’ve been embracing the unknown lately. I knew that it was something more than a coincidence that I first came across the idea of the mythological archetype right as I was about to head out on my own somewhat archetypal journey into the unknown of the developing world. I decided that I would work toward self improvement via interaction with the unknown long before I even partially understood what that meant.

I believe the past year and a half of my life has been one giant adventure into the unknown. At the very least it’s the first time that I’ve lived with even a little cognizance of the fact that there is something to be gleaned from confronting novel and seemingly dangerous things, ideas, people, and situations.

And so here I am. I’m 27 years old volunteering as a waiter/bartender/busboy/kitchen prep/modern-slave-extraordinaire in a small mountain farming town in Peru. I’m working for tips, a place to stay, and food. And I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t very uncomfortable at first. But I quickly adapted. And now I feel little to no anxiety over beginning my shift. But the first few days were quite difficult for me. I dreaded the wait for work to begin and I would mentally penalize myself harshly for every minor social mistake I made the day previously. But like everything else in my twenties I learned how to face what made me anxious and learn to handle it. So far that’s the only thing that works.

But my experience with the unknown goes much deeper than a gap year in South America. This is perhaps just the most conscious example of my attempts to “put myself out there”. Perhaps the most daunting, and one that I’m still struggling with, is entering a relationship with an attractive and outgoing girl. She’s strong, intelligent, and very likable. And if you’ve spent most of your life as an unfriendly and easy going man she’s exactly the type of woman that makes you uncomfortable.

But it’ the first time I’ve entered a relationship under healthy circumstances in my adult life. I finally met someone that seemed right for me and I wanted to make it work. Neither of us had serious baggage or already existing significant others. I finally met someone that made me feel ready to voluntarily enter relationship as opposed to begrudgingly doing it as some sort of compromise. Because that’s how all of my previous relationships felt. As well as previous hookups that wanted to be relationships.

But the deeper into the relationship I get the more I’m confronted with certain aspects of the unknown that I didn’t expect. Or to put it better I’m recognizing aspects of the great unknown for what they are. Until now I didn’t have the life experience or the maturity to understand and recognize them. I’m being vague so let me try to explain.

The unknown is always represented in mythology as the feminine. It has the potential to be the bringer of life or the destroyer of it. It’s up to the individual (me) to decide which outcome will result. What I’ve found is that there’s certain things about women that will always necessarily represent the unknown in this sense. And taking a step even further back, there are certain things about being in any relationship that will bring about aspects of the unknown by their very nature. For a lot of people (in particular men, or at least that’s my suspicion) this unknown can seem unbearable. Can you trust your partner? Can you trust anyone? After all, people can be terrible. We’re all aware of this once we’re able to “incorporate our shadow” so to speak. We understand how much evil we’re capable of. And thus we understand what others could do to us. Logically, trusting anyone else can be a very challenging thing.

The individual has the power to harness the unknown for great good or great peril. Relationships are no exception to this. I feel I’ve greatly improved my ability to live with the things that I can not control about others. But any time that you get close to someone else there are aspects of their personality that bring unique challenges. I’ve had less trouble than I thought with certain things that may have bothered me in the past: physicality with the opposite sex, flirtiness, etc. I think most of the reason I’ve become okay with this is because I’ve become more like this over the course of my twenties. The fact that I behave this way as well helps me normalize it when my partner does it.

But for some reason I’ve always had a really strong memory for minor miscues in relationships. And despite my personal growth this hasn’t seemed to change. For whatever reason very small or seemingly minor lies stick in my mind for long periods of time. And although I’ve been able to keep these things to myself (solely because I know mentioning them months later is counterproductive) some days they nag at me endlessly.

But it’s become clear that it goes much deeper than “unknown = fear of being hurt”. If the unknown is always represented by the feminine then a similar parallel can be drawn to men in relationships with women. For the single man, women represent the unknown, the unexplored. They represent the critical judgement (the most critical judgement) and thus a reminder of our own incompleteness and immortality. In biology women choose. And the parallels don’t end once you enter a relationship. In a relationship women are the constantly critiquing and judging. It’s in their nature. There’s an old quote from an author I can’t recall that essentially says “Men act and women judge”. Any man who’s been in a meaningful relationship can attest to this.

But let’s dig deeper. For the post-adolescent man there are two options: the juvenile yet peaceful life free of responsibility or the creative yet stressful life of responsibility. For now let’s set aside the human predisposition toward one or the other or whether one provides for a more meaningful existence. Of course this choice is available to everyone but clearly men have more time to make a choice. The time constraints for child bearing created by the female anatomy makes their decision for them (with rare exceptions). Let’s be frank: men have time to dick around. We can have kids at 16. We can have kids at 40. Women don’t have this luxury. Thus for most women a good deal of their life goals is more or less biologically decided: if you want children (as most humans do) then do it. For men, there is no sense of urgency. And as a result it’s easier for us to choose a lifestyle of meaningless decadence and foolishness. In fact it often seems as if that’s the preferable path. At least it did for me.

What we as men choose to do with our lives and our relationships can vary. A lot. It’s easy for men to simply ignore the judgement of females. We can choose the reject the stress of relationships. And of a career. We can reject doing anything meaningful at all. We can reject meaning itself.

But that’s where I realized that I was wrong. In order to confront what’s wrong with myself and make myself and the world better I need to do things that are hard. I need to do things are difficult. A relationship is challenging. As is a career. Solving tough problems is hard. But I want to do it. And it appears obvious to me that no matter which aspect of life I focus on the only solution is hard work.

So I want to make a difference in the world. Perhaps it won’t be monumental. But I want to make a noticeable and measurable impact on the planet. So I will need to look within myself to conquer the demons of my relationships, my professional life, and my personal life. They all have one common link. And he’s the only one that can make them better.

Archetypes and Hate

July 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

I recently watched a video clip discussing the “men that go their own way” movement. Also known as “MTGTOW” in the online communities where they interact. It’s primarily composed of middle aged men who have had terrible experiences with women, typically involving one or more viscous divorces. These men have had really bad luck with the opposite sex throughout their life and as a result they’ve chosen to identify with a lifestyle that “frees” them of the problems that they believe women bring. They choose to live alone and refuse to enter any type of sexual relationships with women beyond casual sex. The rest of this online community is younger men in their twenties who may have had little to no dating success and follow the advice of these older men. Let’s forget the very real possibility that, at least in most cases, these men have helped create many of their own “woman problems”. For the sake of analysis let’s just focus on their reaction and what it says about their state of mind.

The video clip I mentioned does a good job of doing exactly that. Roughly speaking, these men are misidentifying all women with the negative archetypal aspects of femininity. The relevant Jungian archetypes are as follows: the positive masculine (the good king, order, culture), the negative masculine (the tyrant, rigidity, oppression), the positive feminine (nature, creation, life) and the negative feminine (destruction, death, chaos).

In the short clip the speaker shows how members of the MTGTOW movement have identified women solely with the negative feminine archetype. Essentially they’re getting half the story. As a result they’re influencing a lot of young men with a view of the world that’s severely lacking. These men have had a particularly rough love life and rather than look within themselves to see if they’re a part of the problem (after all, what’s the only constant in every single one of your relationships?) they’ve identified women as the root evil. As an interesting side note, this reminds me of an interesting article I read about the proclivity of humans to think in terms of us vs them.

I sort of shelved this video into the back of my mind for a while under the category of “well, that’s an interesting take” and left it there. Then this morning I was reading an article about a feminist scholar who believes that the fact that most citations in the field of geology are of work done by “white heteronormative males” represents a form of discrimination. When other scholars asked if perhaps this has to do with the field itself being primarily male the scholars simply doubled down. They stated that it’s discrimination regardless. Then I started to think about the MTGTOW movement. I suddenly realized that many feminists suffer from the same archetypal issue as the jaded men who hate all women.

And the most personal example I can think of is my own girlfriend. She very routinely states that she hates all men and that they’re all pigs. Of course she conveniently makes a mental exception for me. Which, as nice as it might be to believe that I’m the only good guy on earth, the truth is obviously much more complex than that. Feminists that openly hate men are falling into the same archetypal trap. They’re identifying all men with the negative masculine archetype. All men are power hungry tyrants and oppressors.

In fact the feminist vocabulary begins to make much more sense when viewed archetypally. “The patriarchy” is simply the manifestation of the negative masculine archetype in the world. It is used to represent instances of cultural rigidity and overly conservative views. It becomes an issue when “patriarchy” is used to describe increasingly mundane and harmless behavior or events. Because the term is incredibly vague it can be used to describe a myriad of things. Some of which may represent actual oppression, and others which do not.


May 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

[From a mosquito-net-draped bed in a rustic cabin tucked deep into the thick jungle of the Atlantic Forest on an almost uninhabited island off Brazil’s south east coast]

Life has a weird way of pushing you into different directions that you never expected. That’s where I’m at now. But more importantly than life’s “push” is your ability to create order out of the chaos that is the universe. I don’t think it can be overstated that I wanted a certain lifestyle so I went out and created it. It takes time to put yourself into a position where you can comfortably cut out a chunk of your life to focus solely on yourself. At least it took me time. I had to cut ties from people and places that were familiar because I knew that they were not making me better. They were not fulfilling in my endeavor to live life in a way which impacts the world. I had to leave a high paying position and the comfort of the corporate world for the uncertainty of unemployment. I had to leave a prosperous and beautiful region of the country where I had the great urban apartment that I always wanted for the discomfort of sleeping on strangers couches and camping in mosquito infested jungles. I had to leave the known for the unknown.

It was clear my life had reached a stagnant routine far too early. Life should never feel like a dull routine. If life is boring then there’s something lacking from it which will give you the energy and passion to live life the way it should be. And what is the “way it should be”?

Simple. You need walk bravely into the abyss and disorder of the unknown and create a new “known” for yourself. I believe that this is only way to find meaning and purpose in life. And your 20’s should be one of the most potent periods of your life for personal discovery and growth.

So I made changes. And now I’m quite literally heading into the unknown chaos of South America and trying to develop meaning and purpose while surrounded by foreign lands, people, and languages. And it’s exciting as hell. Simple things like conversations with strangers become a means to strengthen my Portuguese and my confidence in speaking a foreign language. Every time I drink a new beer, smoke weed in the street with people I just met, try a traditional tea, eat a new food, or otherwise immerse myself in a new culture I’m discovering more about myself and what I need to improve.

For instance I’ve realized that I’m socially very black or white. I’m extroverted in the sense that I feed off of social interaction. When I’m socially engaged I get excited and speak more and become louder and more confident. I never fully understood this until I came to Brazil. I noticed that it’s very hard for me to follow a conversation in Portuguese when there’s more than three people including myself. Especially if one of them isn’t Larissa. I get lost quickly in the slang and accents and before I know it I’m forced to sit back and quietly listen. Asking every time that I have a question leads to me repeatedly breaking the flow of conversation. As a result I sort of pull away from social interaction and quickly clam up. I’m not upset but after a half hour or so of this I become very socially withdrawn and ready for a nap. My entire mood is affected. So I’ve been trying to find excuses to assert myself into conversations when there’s less than four people. I know I can’t keep up with a large group. But tonight I had a relatively successful conversation over a joint and some mate with Lari and my Airbnb host. Of course it became hard to keep up once I was pretty well stoned but I did a decent job of keeping up for the most part.

Another point: I just heard pretty powerful lyrics in the song This Aint Livin’ by G. Love and The Special Sauce:

The pain lets me know that I’m alive

Life is suffering and you can either roll over on your back and identify with that suffering or you can grab a torch and march forward into the source of that suffering and search for fulfillment. I chose the latter. And although some of the examples I’m experiencing right now are quite literal (confronting foreign and unknown cultures) there’s plenty other ways I’m trying to do this. First and foremost I’ve been watching a series of lectures from a 400 level psychology class which have greatly influenced my last few blog posts and the way I’m approaching life in general. I’ve started creating a list of books I’d like to read either during the course of this trip across South America or when I return to North America. I’ve been following world news and I’ve become fascinated by the knowledge that can be gleaned from ancient mythology and religion. Essentially I’m trying to say that the search for knowledge is where I’m deriving a significant sense of purpose in life. And I don’t expect that to change much for the remainder of my life. I hope to god it’s a long and meaningful life. 😊

I still have social anxiety in certain situations. And I’ve learned that there’s only one way to tackle this type of issue: confront it. In the same way that I’m going head first into the darkness of strange cultures and new ideas I’m trying to find the courage necessary to overcome my social anxiety and show the world what I’m worth. An I can contribute quite a bit, as far as I can tell. In fact if one believes, as I do, that they are talented and competent enough to make memorable change in the world then they need to be able to put the ideas of their mind into words. Spoken language is the most powerful tool we have as humans.

Ate logo, gente.


A Path Forward Emerges From The Darkness

May 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

[Location: Perched over my laptop on a shitty but serviceable bed in a small hillside favela overlooking the historic center of Ouro Preto, Brazil. São Cristóvão, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brasil]

I tried listing my current obsessions or mental fixations in a numbered and ordered format. I stopped, because that seems to rigid right now. As I’ve been increasingly grappling with philosophical topics that really strike at the root of what being human means I’ve been noticing my creative side is growing. I no longer look at the world as something that can be categorized scientifically. I’m even beginning to question the existence of objective facts.

I’m questioning the very foundation of my value structures. Interestingly, I’m seeing parallels between what I’m coming to grips with now and some ideas that I’ve read about extensively in the past. I’ll save the details of those connections for some time in the next year when I’ve contemplated these topics much more.

I’m being intentionally vague because using details requires more thought than I’m willing to do right now. Also, because it makes it easier for me to sort my ideas out or at least communicate them to myself. Which brings me to an ancillary but incredibly important revelation from my studies:

The power of logos.

Logos, or the spoken word. Communicating ideas is the best way to fully understand them. And in the brief instances where I’ve introduced ideas I’ve been contemplating to other people I’ve immediately learned things about them that I hadn’t considered. For instance, that they’re wrong. Or that my arguments in favor of them are not strong enough. Or that my approach when making a given argument is not effective.

On Life

I’ve also begun to realize that the reason the corporate world never excited me was that I was essentially competing in a dominance hierarchy that does not appeal to me. Striving for professional success is something that drives some people. I was hired into a position that was looking for a young candidate whose drive for professional success would translate into a positive for the team and indirectly for the entire corporation. But after a very brief period of time it became obvious that my long-term aspirations and those of the corporation differed on very fundamental grounds. I quit that job because I realized that. I didn’t have the words to explain that to myself at the time. But I do now.

The difficulty is finding the long term aspirations which best suit my own passion. Luckily I have three things which I can use for tools toward whatever it is that I set my mind to: the ability to think, write, and speak (well). I realize that there are number of things that I need to do over the next five years or so to stabilize my life and orient myself.

First I need friends. And not just any friends. I have those. But I need to find people that have the same ability to think, write, and speak. I can still have friends that I drink and do drugs with. But I need find a couple people that I can sit down with and have serious conversations. I need to find a way to take intellectually stimulation from a solitary exercise to a discussion with others. In other words, I need to exercise the logos.

I need to read. A lot. It’s become clear to me that there’s a bare minimum number of things that one needs to know about history, philosophy, and western culture in order to even sit at the table when important ideas are being discussed. I need to immerse myself in the greatest works of western culture and soak in what they mean to me and to our culture. Nietzsche. Jung. Hume. The list is long. And the reading is tough.

Last, and it appears we’ve come full circle, I need a meaning. And if reading provides a meaning that can orient a good chunk of my personal life then perhaps a career is simply a specific subcategory of meaning. That is, I need to find an aspect of humanity that I can work toward and specialize in that brings me immense satisfaction. I’m considering several options and almost all of them involve me going to graduate school. I’m unsure of this option because of the expenses I would incur. However, I think my technical background and my interest in certain topics may make me a great candidate for a number of specialized fields. I’ve been considering the idea of something as simple as owning a hostel or a small farm and the lack of impact I would make on humanity makes me suspect I could never fully embrace that lifestyle. It’s becoming apparent that academia or an academic oriented field may be the only place that I can feel at home.

Sorting Myself Out

May 4, 2017 § 1 Comment

I made a deal with myself to use the next year to better understand who I am and what I want. This is a simple question with a complex answer. At least the path to the answer is complex. There’s multiple ways to better understand yourself but psychology must lie at the heart of it. I’ll start with that today.

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of lectures by a psychologist named Jordan Peterson and I’ve become interested in his “self-authoring” system. It’s basically a way of evaluating your past by writing about it in order to better understand who you are and better orient your future goals. More importantly to me  perhaps, is the idea that one can’t possibly pretend to know what’s best for the world if they don’t first understand what’s best for themselves.

Psychologists agree that there are five main personality traits that describe human behavior. My own thoughts about my past and my personal “self-authoring” story is too personal to post publicly anywhere. But without writing my full “self-authoring” story, perhaps evaluating how I fit into each of these personality traits could be a worthwhile endeavor. Here we go, sluts.

OCEAN (Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism).

  • Openness

“Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. They tend to be, when compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings. They are also more likely to hold unconventional beliefs.”

This is the easiest of the five. This basically describes me. These are qualitative measures but if this were out of 10 I’d give myself a 9. The fact that I’m writing this from a bed in a developing county half a world away from where I grew up says a lot. That, and my at times unconventional beliefs and ideas. My interest in embracing new cultures, languages, and knowledge speaks to that as well.

I’m very open to new experience.

  • Conscientiousness

“Conscientiousness is a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement against measures or outside expectations. It is related to the way in which people control, regulate, and direct their impulses. High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior. The average level of conscientiousness rises among young adults and then declines among older adults”

I’m incredibly unconscientious. I suck at following a schedule and I’ve always been really bad at following deadlines. There was a period from my late teens into my early twenties where I tried to force myself to become more conscientious. But my lack of attention to detail and my impulsiveness eventually came roaring back with a vengeance, like floodwaters being held back by a shoddily constructed dam. I don’t plan for specifics at all. In fact I find planning for trips to be incredibly taxing and stressful and it sucks the life out of whatever it was I wanted to do to begin with. I do like to plan very big ideas about the future, but I save the details for later and generally try to enjoy the path toward that goal rather than worry about the end result.    

  • Extraversion

“Extraversion is characterized by breadth of activities (as opposed to depth), surgency from external activity/situations, and energy creation from external means.[38] The trait is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy interacting with people, and are often perceived as full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals. They possess high group visibility, like to talk, and assert themselves”

Unlike the first two, I don’t think this a very clear cut answer for me. On the one hand I do tend to get caught up in too many activities or interests at once. So on the “breadth over depth” I’m certainly more extroverted. I also really enjoy talking to people, especially new people. Learning new things from people I’ve never met before brings me a lot of joy. This is a new piece of information that I learned about myself in the past couple years. In fact, as I’ve grown up I discovered that I love social interaction, and feed off it significantly. I get excited and worked up by good conversations. And sometimes I get a little too intense which can frighten people. 😉

But at the same time I don’t mind being alone at all. And I don’t feel like I’m suffering by being alone for long periods of time. I could sit down with an interesting book and a notepad and enjoy the time alone for hours. However this relates back to my personal “self-authoring” story that I talked about earlier. I spent a good chunk of my childhood alone. My siblings were much older than me and I mom worked all of the time. I was forced at a young age to find innovative ways to “play” without other people around. I eventually started socializing with the neighborhood kids by the age of seven or eight but for a good chunk of my early developing years it was just me. I believe it was at these early ages that I learned to enjoy the peace and tranquility that can come from solitude. I keep that with me today as an adult. But I recognize that this was not a proper socialization, and I should have been around more children my age when I was younger. This, combined with unhealthy relationships in my teen years helped stunt my social development. I believe this is part of the reason I didn’t realize that I was the loud, inflammatory center of attention in social situations until my mid twenties.

An interesting note: I didn’t speak much at all when I was a child in elementary school. I can remember my teachers and mother simply brushing it off as being “shy”. But as an adult I realize that, for reasons outside their control for the most part, the public education system failed to understand the causes of this behavior. Yes, I was a reserved kid. But the inability to recognize the lack of socialization occurring in my home life is mostly due to an overworked mother and a school system which was not (and is not) organized to recognize these kinds of issues. I believe given the proper environment I would have found my inner extrovert much earlier in life. Interestingly, despite socially blooming I still find it difficult to “be myself” in professional and academic settings. I was very introverted while attending classes in high school, college, and professional life. This despite being very socially active in my personal life, especially during my professional years. I believe I’m still carrying baggage from grade school, and recognize I need to break this social barrier in order to truly develop as an adult.

  • Agreeableness

“The agreeableness trait reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, kind, generous, trusting and trustworthy, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature.”

I’m not agreeable. I don’t sympathize with other an incredible amount. I don’t have a soft heart. I typically do not feel other people’s emotions. I’m not a particularly empathetic or overly kind person. I’m not an asshole, I just don’t sympathize much with the plight of others. I suppose this makes sense, as women typically score much higher on agreeableness than men.  The only aspect of agreeableness that I may exhibit is a generally optimistic view of human nature. But that has less to do with me sympathizing with the intentions of others and more to do with my optimistic view of human nature itself and what it means to the universe.

  • Neuroticism

“Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability, or is reversed and referred to as emotional stability. According to Eysenck’s (1967) theory of personality, neuroticism is interlinked with low tolerance for stress or aversive stimuli. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult.”

Shit, family. I’m neurotic as fuck. I get angry easily. I find myself upset by dumb shit all the time. I feel that work impedes my ability to have fulfilling relationships and typically become angry and brood a lot about that. I’ve never seen a doctor about being clinically depressed but around August/September I hit a low point. I spent every night (12 hours) at work and on my nights off I would just sleep some of the day and spend the rest of it laying in bed brooding about work and my personal life. Larissa tried to tell me that I was depressed but I denied it. Looking back now I had all of the symptoms of depression in men.

I’m good now but I still frequently find myself up late at night thinking over insignificant details of shit that doesn’t matter. I recognize that this behavior is not healthy and I need to find ways to stabilize my emotions and prevent dark thoughts from clouding the way I look at the world. This is the only aspect of these behavioral traits that makes me concerned about my long term mental health. I’ve never once felt suicidal but I’ve certainly felt some ups and downs that make me question what’s going on in my mind.

Fear and Growth

April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

If I could smoke fear away,
I’d roll that mother fuck up,
And take two puffs

The older I become the less certainty I have. About everything.

When I was 20 I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And the only thing I’ve been able to take away from this experience is that certainty is something I’m not guaranteed in life. Only the certainty of death remains.

But life should be approached as an experience. At least, that’s the only way I’ve figured it out how to live without becoming overwhelmed by everything. I find topics that interest me and dive in as much as I can. I know that I’ll never learn everything but I find the endeavor itself invigorating. That’s how I intend to live my life. You’ll never know everything but the search for knowledge and experience is what makes life interesting.

Sometimes this propensity to better understand things puts me in awkward situations. I find myself in conversations or places that are uncomfortable for me. For example, I use couchsurfing to meet new people (and stay somewhere for free of course). I had a couchsurfing host in New York invite us to dinner with some of her (and her husband’s) friends. Things were going reasonably well until I found myself in a strange political discussion with the host’s husband. I won’t lie to you, things got weird. But unfortunately I found myself in a position where I was defending the fucking concept of free speech. I was told this was a “strangely American phenomenon” by a German guy and a Turkish woman.  I’ll do my best to refrain from mentioning the irony of a German and a Turk supporting the suppression of free speech. Not to mention the fact that free speech is one of the foundations of the modern Western culture and is far from being solely an “American” phenomenon. Annoyingly, I think these two were trying to paint my support of free speech as some sort of red meat eating, gun-toting, American trait. You could imagine the horror if I (equally idiotically) connected his opposition to free speech to the German culture and the unfortunate events of the 20th century which occurred there. But after that conversation I’ve come across a dangerously increasing number of similarly minded people online and in articles. The conversation, although awkward, was important because it helped me understand the anti-free speech movement. I learned something.

A better example is my life right now. I’m in a foreign country surrounded by people who speak a different language than my own. And although I know some Portuguese it’s surely a struggle to hold conversations. Very often I find myself the weak link in social situations, which is something I’m not used to. There’s only so many times I can ask people to stop a conversation to explain what I missed. After a while I learned to just sit out of a lot of conversations. But at the end of the day I’m living in a foreign country and learning a new language every day. Sometimes it’s mentally tiring. Sometimes I get tired of constantly being forced to focus on each word coming out of everyone’s mouth. But most of the time it’s just interesting. Sitting in a room on the other side of the planet full of people speaking a language that was completely foreign to me only a year before. This is personal growth. It’s tough, but it’s important.

But at the root of all of these strange experiences is fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being judged. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Every time that I do something new it feels sort of weird. Learning new things is strange. Admitting that you suck at something is hard. But the reward from learning a new skill makes it worth it. Improving yourself is how life should be lived.

I’m trying.