Ashamed of My Past

Lately, I can’t stop thinking about how ashamed I am of the things I’ve said or done growing up.  I know to many people it sounds like a waste of time to obsess about, since we “all did things we’re not proud of as a kid.”  (That’s the canned response I get when I try to express my dissatisfaction with my past to a friend.)  However, that doesn’t really make me feel like I can continue on my way without remembering every step of the way the “foolishness” I exhibited throughout my life.

I was never the kind of person to get in trouble with the police for vandalism, theft, or making a loud ruckus at a party.  I was mostly well-behaved in terms of societal norms.  Oh no, my shameful behavior is much harder to shake as an adult.

I specifically remember a conversation I was a part of during a history class in 10th grade.  I don’t remember the context, but all I remember was suggesting that our species places too much value on human life.  I was trying to argue (unsuccessfully) the theory that other creatures have as much right to populate the Earth as humans do, and we shouldn’t put so much effort into discovering cures for diseases.  Well, I was grappling with some really heavy philosophical thoughts at that age, and I was seriously addressing a group of teenagers as if they could respond in any way other than the way they did respond.  The ENTIRE classroom erupted in emotion and I was basically being attacked for my suggestion.  I am not a violent person, nor do I wish bad will upon people, but that day, I lost many friends.  People thought of me as a monster.  I was evil incarnate.  I changed schools shortly after that incident; it was too hard to continue there.

In my senior year of high school (different school), I took a physics class.  I wanted to take Chemistry II, but the slot wasn’t available in my time frame, so I chose another science.  I really am not sure what I was expecting.  I am fascinated with the subject, and I was relatively good at math, but in high school, I was nowhere near ready to deal with the study time required to gain a strong grasp on the subject.  The worst part is, I took the class with the same teacher who was also my photography teacher, and he had a very dim view of the student body.  My first day of photography the semester prior, I discussed with him that I thought everyone had the same capabilities to learn difficult subjects.  He strongly disagreed.  I couldn’t understand why.  In physics, on the first day, he gave us a test to see who could think in the way that was necessary to pass the course successfully.  I was trying to understand why one of my answers was wrong, and he really wasn’t being very helpful.  It was very sad for me, because I always fancied myself an easy learner, and the fact that I couldn’t understand really made me feel unworthy of physics.  I turned the class into an audit and barely did any work from then on out.  I did try from time-to-time, but it was clear the teacher had no interest in my learning process.  I have a strong interest in science, specifically chemistry and physics, but I doubt I will do anything with it because of that encounter.  I will always feel second-rate.

In another class that same year, a civics class, I really did try hard to engage myself.  I did miss homework occasionally, but I was genuinely interested during class.  One time, we had a debate, and I felt like I did a great job contributing, but my “team” lost, and no explanation was given as to why.

In college, there are many examples I could cite where I ignored the social norms, and students labeled me negatively.  For one class called “Persuasion and Propaganda,” I wanted to hold a book burning so people on campus would get more into reading.  I wanted to make the campus think we should ban certain books because their content was in some way unwholesome, and make them want to stage a counter-movement to get them passionate about reading.  I thought it was brilliant.  Well, my idea lost to a run-of-the-mill food drive.  I still participated in the food drive, and it was rewarding in the end, but I really felt depressed that not even one person could get behind such an intellectual and challenging project such as a book burning.

In a later class, social psychology, I gave a presentation on a somewhat abstract topic, and nobody knew what it was about.  I was trying to express that the weakening creativity among the population is extremely harmful to our society.  I feel ashamed for even bringing it up.

Since leaving college abruptly (and without a degree), I have taken jobs that usually ended poorly.  I most recently worked as an assistant manager at a fast food joint.  I quit that job on a day I was scheduled to work with less than 2 hours notice.  I had a depressive attack and it clearly ended badly for me.  Looking back on my performance, I pat myself on the back for being such a hard worker, but I can’t help but feel sadness that I consistently disappointed my boss.  He thought my work was not even close to what he expected of someone in the position, mainly because he said my employees didn’t respect me.  I honestly had no idea how to get them to respect me, nor did I really care to make them.  In my opinion, if you can’t respect your boss(es) and follow their commands, you either don’t like the job and should quit, or you can’t respect authority and should be fired.  I understand the economy is pretty terrible right now, but if you actually have a job, you should do it to the best of your ability and be grateful you have it.  I guess that idea has gone the way of the dinosaurs, though.

I guess I understand that I have this almost sickening desire to impress my authority figures (and sometimes, peers), and that I can be quite condescending to people who can’t understand or get behind my ideas, but there has to be something else going on here that I’m not aware of.  I am ashamed of the things I’ve done or said in my past, but only because I should really know better.  I can’t expect people with normal emotions to understand how I can imagine the things I think about.  I can’t empathize with others.  I can appear empathetic when it is required of me, but I’d much rather be in my own head.  I realize that does sound a bit antisocial, but I assure you, my reader, that I am not hostile or violent in any way, aside from the occasional thoughts of self-harm, and that comes with the territory.  I do wish well on others, but I wish well on a much grander scale that most.  I want everyone to be happy, but I want to figure out ways for that happiness to manifest.  It won’t happen because I wish it, and it won’t happen from simple goodwill, either.  It has to be socially engineered into our global population, otherwise, it will just be a superficial temporary solution.  Humans are savage beasts only hunting their own wild, insatiable desires.  I’m as much ashamed of my past as I am my species’.

Worst part is, this entry was supposed to help me feel better about the things I want to do with my future.  I don’t think I’m ready to stop obsessing over my past.

Natural Trans-humanism

I wrote this piece a while ago for a website I was going to be a part of.  Well, that never happened, but I’d still like to share it with someone.

Introduction

Trans-humanism is a movement that rejects the commonly-held belief that the definition of “human being” is static (transhumanism.org). In other words, trans-humanists don’t believe we have to limit our physical and mental capabilities to that of natural biology. They want to expand on our human abilities using technology to enhance our existence. Such technologies include: cryonics, cybernetics, virtual reality, and other futuristic means of self-preservation (acceleratingfuture.com). There are many people that strongly disagree with such modifications to the human condition. The loudest argument is mostly from individuals who believe technology can be used in ways that would lead to unintended consequences, such as population control. Implanted microchips might be accessible by more than just the owner of the chip, which would have a devastating result on personal freedoms (rense.com).

As an alternative to a traditional trans-humanist philosophy, I am proposing one which requires no technology at all. This may sound nothing like trans-humanism, but it is. It may be possible to ascend beyond our physical bodies without even leaving it at all through the evolutionary acquisition of another sense.

Metaphysics

Our species is quickly reaching a point where we will no longer be able to sustain our own technological advancement. To cope, it is assumed that we will create an artificial intelligence that can improve upon itself, and ultimately, do our thinking for us (mindstalk.net). This “event” will not be due to lack of natural, financial, or creative resources (though those things may hinder progress), but rather, because the human brain will not have the capacity to understand the most complex mathematical and scientific calculations necessary to make sense of our universe. As thinking individuals, this may seem very disturbing. But evolution has taught us, if nothing else, that it is possible for creatures (including humans) to adapt to their situations.

While evolution tends to be a very slow process, there are scientific studies indicating that our brains are changing quickly based on the new ways we are using them (dailymail.co.uk). The brain is a highly adaptive organ. Because of this, it can be assumed that eventually, when repeatedly faced with the inability to think in the deeply abstract terms that emerging physics demands, it will create a totally new method of experiencing the universe. It will improve upon itself in such a way that will be immediately beneficial to humanity.

Epistemology

The technological singularity should not be feared. We do not need to be so impatient that we insist on having a direct hand in our own evolutionary process. Doing so would lead to catastrophic consequences, as it usually does when we try to control things we do not understand. So rather than focusing on how to create an artificial intelligence to develop powerful technology for us, we should train our minds to evolve on it’s own. This is not a difficult task. Just like your muscles, if you don’t use your mind, it becomes flabby. If our minds are only being used for passive entertainment, there are no new neural connections being made, and therefore, our evolution stagnates. We can’t rely on a small handful of people to perform the most complex thought processes, we have to collectively try to challenge the limits of the human brain. We should discipline ourselves to balance our entertainment and education.

Ethics

As you can see, the single most valuable object in this philosophy is the human brain. That, however, does not mean we should ignore all other aspects of philosophy that are currently of value. As mentioned earlier, balance is a particularly important aspect of a practical philosophy. One cannot sit at home reading all day without exercising once in a while. A healthy body is a healthy mind.

In addition, instead of completely dismissing technology, we should value it as a stepping stone rather than an end of itself. We can compensate for the negative effects it has on our brains (for example: lack of attention) with discipline and practice. Nothing of value ever comes easy. There is no quick fix for our shortcomings. It is not necessary to be passive with nature and expect our problems to be solved eventually, but we should stop thinking we can continually modify our bodies until we reach a level of perfection it would take nature millions of years to achieve. Not only is it unethical, but it is also highly impractical. Technology is neither the enemy nor the savior. It is simply a manifestation of the combined creativity of humanity.

Conclusion

Creativity and education seem to be extremely devalued in current Western culture, even though it is evident that a healthy society must have ample doses of both. Of course, there are those who independently pursue their own intellectual goals, but a majority of individuals would rather find ways to mindlessly entertain themselves. Whether by design or as an unintended side-effect of progress, it is important for the continued existence of humanity that we learn to balance learning with earning a living and enjoying our lives. In fact, thinking creatively is not always such an unpleasant endeavor. Creating something, even just a drawing or short story, can be immensely satisfying.

References

http://mindstalk.net/vinge/vinge-sing.html

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2007/07/top-10-transhumanist-technologies/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-565207/Modern-technology-changing-way-brains-work-says-neuroscientist.html

http://www.rense.com/general17/imp.htm

http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/transhumanism.htm

Boring People Should Not Own Cameras

Today, after browsing through some random blogs, I was inspired to use my camera.  I bought this expensive (at the time) camera many years ago, and have barely used it.  Here are the results of my experiment:

ebay_sales

The first photo is a collection of items I intend to put up for sale on E-bay.  A cookie oven, an industrial-grade under-the-counter light, and a basic food steamer.  I acquired that cookie oven for free because a company I used to work for decided they no longer wanted to sell cookies.  I took that home on the bus.  I got some awkward glances.

my buddy and me

Next, you see a photo of my best friend and I.  This picture wasn’t actually taken today, but it did happen to be in my camera, so here it is!  She randomly decided to enter a beauty pageant, so I tried to support her by being there for her on the day of the event.  She’s pretty, in my opinion, but she’s not the beauty pageant type.  At least she went through with something she said she was going to do.  I can’t really say the same, myself.

wildberry tea

This photo is half-finished wildberry iced tea.  When you’re thirsty and there’s nothing to drink in the house, there’s always iced tea!  I learned a new trick today, too!  Before you pour the boiling water into the pitcher, you add a pinch of baking soda.  It prevents the tea from getting foggy.  It worked beautifully and I must say was very delicious!  The recipe I used is from Allrecipes and, although it calls for regular black tea, you can substitute tea bags as you see fit.  I used two Wild Berry Zinger tea bags and four regular black tea bags to make my iced tea.

unfinished painting

The final picture is a painting that I have recently started.  It is incomplete (clearly), but I’m quite proud of it.  I had the idea that when it’s finished, I should frame it and give it to my boyfriend’s best friend when his daughter is born.  It might be a nice addition to the baby’s room, since it’s colorful and optimistic.  I am developing quite the obsession with matryoshka dolls.  I am already fascinated with Russian culture-especially their classical literature-it’s only natural I should want to create something inspired by Russia.

That concludes my photo-blogging entry of the day.  I am not sure if I will do this again in the future, since I don’t really explore the world around me like some of the other photo-bloggers.  It was a bit of fun, though.

//WHOA// I just noticed something unintentional.  As I was editing the post for spelling and grammar errors, I noticed that all of these photos have a theme.  That theme is: incomplete.  For the first photo, I actually created an “E-bay station” in my house a couple of weeks ago, but I never actually listed anything.  The second, I stated I was jealous of my best friend for following-through with something she said she was going to do.  I took the photo of the tea before I was done making it (although I did eventually finish making it).  And the painting, well, the painting is clearly unfinished.  I suppose I should do this more often and get a glimpse into my psyche!

My Mental Illness & Unemployment Status

depressed_girlI quit my job of a year and four months on December 5, 2012.  I have been experiencing another low period ever since.  This is my attempt to get my feelings in text.

The quality of my life has steadily declined since I was sixteen years old when I began experiencing very dark and uncontrollable emotions.  Every psychiatrist or psychologist I’ve been treated by since then has refused to diagnose me with anything except depression.  I am not sure whether this is a blessing or a curse.  Sometimes, diagnosing someone with a specific mental illness has a way of convincing that person they have a handicap.  In this light, I’m certain they wanted to do me a favor.  However, regardless of the lack of an official diagnosis, I am still exhibiting the debilitating, life-altering behaviors of a person with bipolar disorder.  Trying to receive help for my condition is a bit difficult, considering I do not have the financial resources for continued treatment, and not officially being diagnosed seems to be preventing me from obtaining the help I need.  After all, the welfare system is continually being abused by people who are able to work and simply do not want to.  To add me to the list of welfare recipients seems foolish considering I have two arms, two legs, intellectual curiousity, and a strong work ethic.  All those things are meaningless, however,  when you’re trapped in bed because your mind is constantly searching for a motive to get up.  I do have a desire and an ability to contribute.  I consider myself somewhat educated, but lacking the necessary resources (ie: connections) to continue my mental development.  I also lack discipline and patience.  Unless I can muster up the courage to attain those things, I will always find myself writing incoherent pieces on the nature of my emotions which will fail to lead me in the direction I need to go.

My lack of motivation stems from the strong resentment I have about being forced to be a member of the work force.  I don’t want to waste my life doing menial tasks to earn money which will allow me to continue wasting my life.  It’s a very disturbing cycle.  I have been told that a formal education is the way out of this cycle, but it seems more a part of the cycle than a way out of it.  The cost of a formal education is high, and frankly, the quality of the final product has diminished in America compared to many other countries around the world.  Not only that, but when you have completed the program of your chosing, you are even worse off financially than when you started.  You are thrust into the world as some sort of expert in your field, and if that expertise isn’t very marketable, you might still end up at data entry.  What could be more menial than data entry?

I very clearly need help, but I can’t seem to earn the help I need to continue my life the way I would want to.

Is it money I’m after?  Money keeps the bills paid, which prevents me from hyperventilating when a utility company threatens to terminate their services.
I once had the notion that I wasn’t really sick, but my feelings are perfectly normal ways of trying to cope with modern society.  I may still feel this way, but I have an inability to rectify those emotions with any practical alternative lifestyle.  So I try to do the best I can within the scope of societal demands, and when it fails, because it will fail, I am left with nothing once more, and I must start over again.

Occasionally, I am able to get a job and hold on to it for as long as I possibly can.  Periods of employment for me usually last between nine months and a year.  When I have a job, I usually require more than a typical amount of sick days, but when I do attend, I’m told my performance is much higher than others assigned to the same task.

I  have been suffering from migraines since I was in elementary school.  These days, I have a regular headache three or four days out of the week, and a serious migraine perhaps once a month.  I am physically unhealthy.  I do not exercise or eat the proper foods, and I smoke cigarettes occasionally, although I haven’t had a cigarette for several days.  I do sleep quite a bit, and when I’m not sleeping, I will still stay in bed for hours watching TV shows or playing video games.  I neglect my chores for the most part, aside from cooking, washing dishes, and caring for my two cats, and I haven’t even tried to look for another job.  My body is sick, admittedly, but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to develop the will to change my situation.

Even as I sit here writing this, a very positive first step, I am tempted to quit and resume watching television.  This… thing… I’ve been writing for about three hours now seems more like stream of consciousness than an actual article.  I know that if I were to quit and resume watching my shows I would still think about finishing my writing.  I watch science fiction only these days, and every time I do, I’m convinced I can write better science fiction than what’s currently available.  I have an idea for a novel I’ve been avoiding for many years now, and it’s frustrating when I can’t seem to get that idea on paper.  Why can’t I?  I’m not even trying.  I started a painting and it’s actually not bad.  In fact, it has been quite pleasurable to create thus far.  I’m waiting for the latest coating of paint to dry so I can continue without messing it up.  I feel like I might be on the verge of a new era of creativity and possibly a way to end this constant cycle of gloom I’ve been in for many, many years.  One step at a time is the most important thing I can tell myself.

I hope my boyfriend will continue to understand how introspective I’ve been lately.  He was upset yesterday that I don’t seem to care about his depression.  I want to, but I can’t.  I am so deeply involved with myself at the moment that I can’t divert any energy to him.  If that means I must let him go, I shall.  This whole article sounds terribly selfish, I know, but I must till the dirt before anything can grow.  Patience and commitment and discipline.  Continue and take one step at a time.  Don’t give up too early and stick with it.  I feel the need to document the next few years.

Genre Confusion

I tend to be very particular about the media I enjoy.  I don’t like techno, I like other types of electronica. I don’t like science fiction, I like utopian and dystopian fiction.  I know this sounds very snobbish, but I assure you, it has nothing to do with how high I can turn up my nose.

Since I’m trying to write a novel, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the kind of literature I like to read.  Of course the novel I am writing is in the same genre of my favorite reading material.  However, I only recently discovered the proper name for my favorite kind of literature.

To find things to read, I usually Google “science fiction,” but I would always get results having to do with random aliens fighting space battles.  Well, that’s all well and good, I like an epic space battle as much as the next person, but I don’t really enjoy watching a movie or reading a book where that’s the main premise.  I want more meat and potatoes.

So, out of frustration, I filtered my results as best I could.  Sifting through countless 1950’s space operas, I starting noticing the words “speculative fiction” popping up more and more frequently.  So, I looked into it.  As it turns out, two of my favorite books are listed as the top novels in that genre: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.  However, speculative fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction which also encompasses literature about superheros and vampires.  I’m not exactly fond of those two.  So, I had to get to the heart of exactly what themes I preferred over all else.

By understanding my specific tastes, I can now more easily search for the types of books I will almost certainly enjoy, rather than depending on a lottery.  Keep in mind, I do not turn my nose up to books that don’t fall into “utopian and dystopian fiction.”  This only means I don’t have an unlimited amount of time on the planet to read everything that might seem even remotely interesting.  There are some people that read only comic books.  There are some people that read only nonfiction.  There are some people that read only religious texts.  Practically speaking, everyone has to limit what they read somewhat, especially if they want to become an authority rather than a passer-by in that specific field.  [Side note: I should write an article about "specialties" at some point.]

I think the problem arises when someone insists that because their preferences are “more refined,” their opinion is more valid.  It takes more of an effort to appreciate specific sub-genres of music or literature.  Media that reaches a large percentage of the population is easily accessible, and often, appeals to the “lowest common denominator.”  It is usually massively entertaining and not much else.  For some people, this type of media is satisfactory.  For others, there is not enough substance.  So, they dig and dig and dig until they discover media more to their liking.

My point: just because I spend more time trying to determine what my specific preferences are does not give me the right to pass value judgments on pop culture.

But, what if that media prevents people from using their minds productively? Is pop culture the world’s newest religion?

Diaries of a Confused Feminist

Since I’m all for the power of the brain, I spend a lot of time simply browsing the Internet for articles that will help me think critically about myself and my environment.  Today, for example, I was reading about the growing number of teens who use their cell phones to send naked photographs of themselves to their girlfriends or boyfriends.  In one particular instance, a young girl sent a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked, and he forwarded it to his friends, who then continued to forward it to more people until eventually nearly her entire school had seen it.  She was tormented and ridiculed incessantly for months until finally she actually committed suicide.

That article was deeply moving to me, so I decided to continue browsing The Curvature to find out more about the plight of women according to Cara Kulwicki.  Being a modern woman, if only by circumstance, I do sometimes find myself feeling resentment towards men.  That resentment is frequently justifiable, especially when I hear or read “kitchen” jokes.   However, there are also times it can be labelled as misguided frustration.  This frustration does not stem from having little romantic success with men, as many men may quickly assert.  In fact, I do not hate men.  I don’t even strongly dislike them.  Hell, I am even in love with one.  The frustration I feel is more about not knowing how to think and act as an ideal role-model for other members of my gender.  Let me illustrate my confusion:

I want to stand tall and strong, with a book in my right hand and a pen in the other.  I want a glorious beam of light to illuminate my silhouette from behind.  I want to see that image and weep at it’s meaning.  I want to be proud to be a woman.  I also want to bake cakes.

The idea I have of a strong, powerful woman is probably close to the Dagny Taggart types, who command respect simply because of their overwhelming level of competence.  Naturally, a form of “intuitive logic” develops.  Dagny Taggart runs a railroad.  Dagny Taggart does not bake cakes.  If I enjoy baking cakes, does that mean I will never run a railroad?  Of course baking cakes and running railroads are not mutually exclusive, but the seeds of doubt have already been planted.  How can I overcome this self-doubt to be the woman I want to be?  If I want to run a railroad, I may have to sacrifice the pleasures of baking.  If this is true, the lifestyles of “acceptable” female role-models seem even more unattainable than the lifestyle of a beautiful, wealthy heiress!

In order to alleviate my confusion, I looked up the commonly held definition of “feminism” within the politically correct community.  As I thought, feminists attempt to diminish the inequality between the sexes.  However, there is a notion that in order to do this, women must be equal to men in terms of, for example, physical prowess.

“In the U.S. women’s individual rights are guaranteed, but this is a hyper masculine country where the notion of women’s equality is basically that women get to be just like men, like we get to join the military.”
–Linda Lowen, About.com

This is, I think, one of the biggest issues I have with feminist opposition.  Am I to believe that, because I do not want to join the military, I don’t deserve to be treated as equal to men?  Okay, forget about the military for one second.  I was in a job (landscape worker) where I was treated as inferior because I was a female.  I was not allowed to operate simple, gas-powered equipment without first convincing my boss that I was capable of learning how to properly use them.  I was often encouraged to help the only other female on the team.  She was an older lady working on her horticultural internship.  Her primary function was weeding flower beds and watering plants in the greenhouse.  My male counterparts used tractors, weed eaters, pole saws, and even helped pour concrete.  I had to ask for these privileges.  It does not take a particularly fit person to operate a lawn mower, and yet, being female, I was assumed to be physically inferior and thus, unable to mow lawn.  So no, I don’t really want to help my country’s military kill as many of their enemies as possible.  I’d really rather stay here at home, fighting a different war.

I am all about equal rights for all sexes, as I believe most thinking adults are.  However, I am not going to be the embodiment of tomboyism to prove to men that I am just as tough, or to prove to women that I’m a team-player.  I enjoy the qualities I have that are traditionally feminine.  I bake cakes, I clean (quite obsessively, mind you), and I like to smell pretty.  I also enjoy the qualities I have that are traditionally masculine.  I play video games, I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, and I groan when confronted with the possibility that I may have to watch a romantic comedy.  Must I really invoke the cliché: Life is not black-and-white?