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Shrugging Off Existentialism

Sat, Apr 21, 2001 07:50PM -0600

No that's not really what I meant. That's not what I meant at all....

Me and my friends from college used to wonder if we could ever have normal conversations... trite conversations that what we imagine normal people have. It begs the question of what is normal. But I can tell you what ain't.

I find myself happiest when I am talking in more than one layer of abstraction. The concrete, while momentarily exciting, often just leaves me with a feeling of futility and despair, and I realize that I find solace in Platonic ideals. Or ideals of ideals, or something ridiculously recursive like that.

Never mind the fact that I know they don't exist.

But I am in a philosophical mood because I just talked with my childhood friend Bram, who has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of personal problems and see them objectively. I really think that it's a rare talent to be able to look at yourself and see, in a detached sort of way, what you need to do in your life. Not because of some external measuring stick or because of superego parent tapes playing in your head. Not even because it will satisfy your mesolimbic dopaminergic reward circuit, though it probably will. But because you know that this is what you would prefer from life--and that this is not a demand, but an offer, and you know that you will always be constantly negotiating with Life, and that it will always be a constant give-and-take struggle.

The universe: You might as well enjoy it while you can, 'cause you ain't gonna make it out alive.

I remember explaining to Bram one random day at Universal City Walk why I am as warped as I am. This is my reinterpretation of that memory.... (I didn't realize memories would deteriorate as rapidly as they have....):

I suffer from low self-esteem because I have a superiority complex. Not really because I think I'm better than everybody, in the normal positivistic sense. It's mostly because I think I'm one of the select few who understands how shitty the world is, how futile all humanity's hopes and dreams are in the end, and how pointless it is to try and win the game. And I think I am hopelessly condescending to anyone who doesn't realize this.

To take another tack.... I despise anyone who thinks they're better than I am, because if you really think so, then you're an idiot. If you really knew anything, you'd know that everyone is pretty much equally horrible, plus or minus a few percentage points. We all have our hangups and failures. We can all be assholes and bitches. We're all capable of murder, and worse. And most of us are trying to delude ourselves of these facts, and this is what I find most despicable.

You will fail, and you will die. People who accept these facts seem to be better adjusted and less prone to abusing other people, in my experience.

In any case, I am basically afraid of other people because they do not want to know this. In fact, some people are vehement enough about it that they have condemned many others who preach this kind of stuff to death and worse. Anyone in history who has deigned to proclaim the idea that "you are no better than I am; I am no better than you are" seems to have suffered. In fact, I think that this is what half of the history of Science consists of--scientists suffering at the hands of people unwillling to accept this premise.

This is not to say that people are incapable of heartwrenching beauty. On the contrary. I think that the terrible state of the universe makes any moment of beauty simply miraculous.

But enough of that thought. It really doesn't lead anywhere. Although it does tie in with my other reflection:

All natural processes of the world can be seen to consist of two diametrically opposed forces. This is certainly not a new thought. Light vs dark. Presence vs absence. Et cetera, et cetera. What I find somewhat amusing is that "Eastern" philosophy and "Western" scientific theory seem to have finally converged on this principle. (Conservation of Energy and Matter vis-a-vis the Yin and the Yang.)

And the only thing that makes Life possible is that one force is ever-so-slighly stronger than the other. Sometimes the sucking is just a smidgen stronger than the pumping. Sometimes the flow just barely overpowers the resistance. The only reason why matter exists is that there was a slight deficit of anti-matter during the Big Bang, and after most of the matter and the anti-matter were annihilated, only tiny bits of matter were left. The only reason why our proteins are made of L-amino acids and not D-amino acids is because the sunlight caused an ever-so-slight deficit of D-amino acids on the early earth, and natural selection took care of the rest.

Bank accounts are sort of like that. When you come to the end of the month, and all your paychecks are in, and all your bill payments are out, how much money do you really come up with in your pockets, no matter what your salary is? More likely than not, it's closer to zero than it is to infinity, or even a million dollars.

Which brings me to my final reflection. Mammals really can't count. When we are cognizant of the fact that one thing outnumbers another, we automatically assume that the margin between the two things is extremely wide. For example, when more shitty things happen than good things, we tend to think that the universe is just shitty by nature. Or if we happen to see more good things than bad things, we think that the universe is essential good and orderly.

This is clearly wrong. Nothing natural ever tends towards infinity. The universe does not operate in absolutes. In reality, there is no such thing as absolute good or absolute evil. Our perceptions are just likely to be out-of-whack. Like the rest of nature, it is more likely that bad things simply outnumber good things by a very, very slight margin. Or vice-versa. But add to this the fact that most of us in our materialistic culture think that we always deserve good things and are therefore desensitized to them, and you can see why people like me become pessimistic.

But enough of trying to unravel the true nature of the universe.

A random fact I learned yesterday is that in dreams, the number of hostile acts towards the dreamer outnumber the number of kind acts. But it's probably tainted by the problems I outlined above.

Random quote:

Professor: I just think of the vigilant cows, and I'm entertained.

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