Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Being Popular

Back in college, for a year and a half, I ended up being the manager of a house full of girls. Sometimes there were 11, sometimes 12. I lived in a studio apartment attached to the house.

I noticed some very interesting things. One is that two of the girls, who were friendly to guys, including smiling at them and initiating conservations with them, were very popular with men. Other girls in the house sat there like lumps and expected guys to always approach them. They were not popular.

All the girls were attractive – some more than others, of course, -- but looks weren’t the determining factor.

Once Thursday night I was in one girl’s room, just talking to her. I have no idea why I said this, until it was some sort of intuitive thing – and I get those a lot – I asked her, “So how many guys asked you out this weekend?”

She told me, “Seven.”

I was so caught by surprise I had no idea what to say. After a few seconds I asked, “So which one are you going to go out with?” and she answered, “The one I like the best.”

Two of the girls who never smiled at guys or initiated conservations with them, each had one date in the year-and-a-half I was there.

Some girls I know have told me other women have asked them, “Why are you so popular? Why do so many guys ask you out?” And they have always told them the same thing: I smile at them, I initiate conversations with them.

Some years later, when I looked back, I also realized body language had something to do with it. The more popular girls looked more approachable (after all, a smile is often an invitation to approach) and the unpopular ones did not look approachable at all. There are flirting signals, and I’ve never seen an unpopular girl use them. The popular ones used them all the time.

I didn’t learn that much in college, not from the classes. But I certainly learned a lot about people.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Foundation of Virtue

I recently read Antonio Damasio’s “Looking for Spinoza,” which is of course about Spinoza (not all that much, really), but more about how feeling and emotions underlie our lives.

It might sound obvious that this is so, but it’s amazing how little science takes feelings into consideration. Take a look at a lot of modern economics (not a science, though), which is mostly about massive social engineering – do this to taxes, do this to the money supply, do this to government spending, and you’ll get this. The planners never get what they want, because what people feel isn’t taken into consideration.

More than anything else in Damasio’s book, pages 171 -172 jumped out at me. The author quotes Spinoza: “…the very first foundation of virtue is the endeavor to preserve the individual self, and happiness consists in the human capacity to preserve the self.”

While this might sound like a prescription for the self-centeredness and selfishness that plagues modern society, Damasio does not believe it is, and neither do I.

Damasio translates the saying thusly: I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are created such that they tend to preserve their life and seek well-being, that their happiness comes from the successful endeavor to do so, and that the foundation of virtue rests on these facts.

He elaborates a bit further: “The biological reality of self-preservation leads to virtue because of our inalienable need to maintain our selves we must, of necessity, help preserve other selves. If we fail to do so we perish…”

In other to preserve our own lives, we must preserve others. As John Donne put it, “No man is an island.” All of us are literally connected to each other.

When I say, literally, I do mean literally. A person’s “self” (actually we have many selves) is created to relation to someone else. You can’t be a father or mother without a child; you can’t be a husband or wife without a spouse. That particular self is created in its relation to another’s self. So, you cannot maintain your “self” without maintaining the self of the other person.

In one way of looking at it, you are dealing with two people – and yet one person – at the same time, This sounds suspiciously like the Golden Rule, which, as C.S. Lewis noticed, exists in all cultures.

If you treat people the way you want to be treated, and they respond positively, you are benefiting yourself – and them. If they respond negatively, then you can “hurt” yourself because of the way they act toward you. This is a clear warning to stay away from them, If you give good to someone, and consistently get bad in return, what clearer sign can there be this person should be avoided?

But when it comes right down to it, you don’t have much of a choice except to try to benefit others, if you want to benefit your own life.

In college I took a Psychopathology class, which has always stayed in my mind. I even remember the classifications for many disorders; psychopath, narcissist, borderline, histrionic.

What all have in common is the attempt to maintain their selves by dominating, controlling and manipulating others. They are, of course, not treating people as they want to be treated themselves. They are treating other people as things to be manipulated, since those disordered as essentially bottomless pits of need.

In fact, they try to force the other people into giving what they want. The word “force,” I think, is important. When you translate this into the political area, force is the essence of government. Without force, there can be no government.

The opposite of force is freedom, and politically that would be the free market. In the free market, by benefiting others you benefit yourself.

With political force, can you benefit yourself by benefiting others? Sure doesn’t seem like it, because of the feelings involved. Forcing people to do what they don’t want to do breeds resentment and anger. You can benefit yourself in the short term, but since you’re not benefiting other people, sooner or later they will turn on you, since they feel oppressed and exploited.

I once spent an hour or so in a food stamp office watching the people. Almost all were sullen. Why? They were getting free food! It didn’t take long before I saw a man snap, when he spoke to the woman behind the counter: “I have to live on this while you’re making $40,000 a year!”

He didn’t want food stamps – I repeat, free food – he wanted a high-paying job. He was full of resentment and anger because he was being forced to do something he did not want to do. Feelings, obviously, do count.

Does the free market work perfectly? Of course not. There is no perfection in this life. But it works so much better than the force of government the comparison is not even close.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Life as Play

Just how important is play for adults? According to psychiatrist Stuart Brown, who has studied it for years, it’s not just important, but necessary.

He writes, “A severely play deprived child demonstrates multiple dysfunctional symptoms -- the evidence continues to accumulate that the learning of emotional control, social competency, personal resiliency and continuing curiosity plus other life benefits accrue largely through rich developmentally appropriate play experiences.”

Play enables us to innovate, problem-solve, and to be happy, smart, resilient human beings. Brown also said “highly successful people have a rich play life.” Some unsuccessful men he studied was a group of murderers in Texas, whom he had found were extremely play-deprived as children.

Murderers, of course, lack empathy.

I was reminded of Brown when I discovered that psychologists who study relationships have found they can watch a 15-minute tape of a couple and predict divorce with a 95% accuracy rate. They can watch the tape with the sound off and look for microexpressions of, first and foremost, contempt.

The other three expressions and behaviors they look for are defensiveness, stonewalling, and criticism.

Watching five minutes of a tape gives a 90% accuracy rate of divorce. Three minutes gives an 80% accuracy rate.

I’ve heard these four traits referred to as The Four Horseman of Divorce. I should find it amazing that four traits predict so much, but I don’t. I have known people who consistently engaged in anger, shaming, contempt, interruption, and ridicule. Much to their surprise, their relationships have never worked out. I believe all of those emotions are indicative of a lack of empathy.

The opposite of those four negative traits, in my mind, is respect, listening to the person, and not interrupting them. There are no attempts at manipulation and control. In a word, empathy is shown.

It sounds to me as if people who have so many of those four negative traits are not having any fun. In other words, they can’t play. It may sound as if respect, listening to the other person, and not interrupting them isn’t play, but I think it is. It may not always necessarily be play, but you can’t have play without those three traits.

I am reminded of how improvisation comedy works. The first rule is: deny no suggestion. Whatever someone says, never say no to it. If you say no, the other person has to go in a different direction.

“Accept all offers made,” writes Keith Jonestone, one of the founders of improvisation comedy, “which is something no ‘normal’ person would do.”

If they say yes, the players can build on it. It flows. It’s serious but spontaneous. It’s play, based on not interrupting, listening, and respect. There is no defensiveness or stonewalling, either.

An example given (and I paraphrase) were two people playing a doctor and patient.

Doctor: We have to amputate your leg.

Patient: Don’t do that!

That one wasn’t funny.

The second one.

Doctor: We have to amputate your leg.

Patient: I’m quite attached to it.

The second one was funny, because the first suggestion was not denied.

Those involved in improvisation are offstage rather serious about their craft. Onstage they are funny. Art imitates life: it has its funny and serious aspects.

You can say life is an art. You have to learn how to play, and play is a serious thing. Watch any kid playing. They’re not having “fun.” They are absorbed in what they are doing, enjoying it thoroughly, but serious about it.

Those Four Horsemen, along with attempts at manipulation and control, are the exact opposite of play. So, adults who can play should have better relationships with other people. That is, if the others can play, too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Time I Got Bit by a Pit Bull

Over a year ago I was handing some money to my nephew and the pit bull sitting quietly in his lap jumped up and bit me on my right bicep.

I said, "He got me" and walked into the bathroom and pulled up my shirtsleeve. There were four small puncture wounds. And the skin was already bruised. It took three days for the bruise to reach its worst color.

The bite itself did not hurt at all. It felt like an electric shock, but the pressure of the bite was so intense, so hard, even though it did not hurt, I knew I had been pretty badly damaged.

I always thought a dog bite would tear the skin and hurt badly. Not necessarily. Other people I have talked to have gone through the same thing -- really no tearing of the skin, but very bad bruising.

This particular pit ended up in the pound. I wasn't the first person he had bitten. More like the third.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to be a Gigolo

I drove a taxi many years ago. One night I picked up what is euphemistically called "a working girl" who wanted to go to the place whe worked out of. When I went inside to get paid, the woman who ran the place looked me up and down and asked,

"Would you like to make $100 for an hour's work?"


"We had a black woman call looking for a six-foot-tall white guy with blond hair and blue eyes. And you just walked in."

"Are you serious?"

"Oh yes."

"And what exactly does this entail?"

"Well, you spend an hour with her doing whatever she wants."

"An hour? Not maybe ten minutes?"

"Nope, an hour."

I thought about it for several seconds. Hmmm....I could tell people I was a gigolo! A real one! But I decided to pass on it.

Seeing Things That Aren't There

When I was about five years old my parents took my sister and me to see a monster movie.

That night, lying in bed, I looked in my doorway and saw the monster standing there. Inexplicably, my sister, in another room, saw him too, and started screaming.

As to how we both saw the same monster, I do not know. Since it cannot be explained, I don’t try to.

But her screaming brought my father into her room, where he quieted her. Then he stood in my doorway, checking on me. Here’s what I remember vividly. The monster was transparent and I could see my father though him. After that, I don’t remember anything.

I wasn’t particularly scared of this guy. He was just standing there looking at me. He didn’t try to enter my room.

Years later I found out what happened to me is called a hynogogic hallucination. They aren’t all that uncommon, and happen in that state between wakefulness and sleep.

Years later, when I was about 21, I had another one. During that time, I often suffered from sleep paralysis. In that state in-between being awake and going to sleep, I would often find myself paralyzed. It got to the point I didn’t even pay much attention to it.

One night I found myself paralyzed. Then something unexpected happened.

First, I heard a woman’s highheels clicking on the sidewalk outside my house. Then I heard her talking in English, but I could not understand her. “I’m having a hallucination,” I thought. It didn’t bother me for some reason.

What happened next did bother me. I heard what appeared to be a giant been buzzing above my bare back. The worst part of it is that I could feel the air from its wings across me,

Then this “bee” dropped down, as if it was going to land on me. This was too much. I got scared. Trying to break that paralysis, I tried to rock back and forth, and finally was able to move. The “bee” went away.

This hallucination was as vivid as could be, but I knew it was a hallucination. Now as to why people have hynogogic hallucinations, I have no idea.

Because of what happened to me, I suspect that when people in the past claimed they were being attacked my demons at night, they were having hynogogic hallucinations. They are, I believe, in many ways culturally determined, otherwise I would not have seen a monster from a movie.

One thousand years ago, and who knows what I would have hallucinated. In my case, probably a succubus.

Puzzling Dreams

I do not believe dreams can be analyzed from a book. I once had a dream in which penguins were sliding down a giant slalom, then shooting into the air, flapping their feet, and flying, A woman told me animals in dreams symbolized problems, and I wanted my problems to fly away.

I don’t think an analysis of this sort is right. In fact, I think it’s completely wrong, How anyone determined that animals in dreams symbolize problems is beyond me. I think it’s a trite and superficial explanation.

Some dreams you can figure out on your own. Others, no.

I recently had a dream about a woman I know, who got into a car with me and said it was very important for her to go home and make her bed. It made absolutely no sense to me. Yet when I told her about it, she said she had let her bed pile up until it got to the point she had to clean it off, then make it.

Now what is going on here? Is this just a coincidence? I don’t think it is. Sometime, in my dream, I picked up her intention to make her bed. How did I do this? Ultimately, I don’t know.

I do have some thoughts, though, Everything and everyone is in some way connected, and thoughts and feelings can somehow be passed from one person to another.

People have, for thousands of years, known what was happening to someone else. My mother swears when I was in college she could make me call her by thinking about it. Who am I do deny it?

Some years ago one of my friends, an elderly diabetic, ended up in the hospital, where she died. We knew she was going to die.

One night, she appeared to me in a dream, just as vividly as could be. She essentially said, “Bye, I’m going now.” I have never in my life had a dream that vivid in the middle of the night that I remembered in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning, I knew she had died. I even knew the time: about 2:30 in the morning, When I went to the hospital her room was empty. I didn’t even ask the nurses when she had died. I already knew.

As I said, the only explanation I have for any of this is that everyone is connected, The stronger the emotional connection, the easily to pick something up from someone else.

Almost Getting Killed

When I was about 24 years old I was driving my car at night, in the winter, after a snowstorm. The highway was clear, but while traveling though a city I hit a patch of black ice. My car started spinning.

What happened next I did not expect. As my car started spinning, time slowed down for me. I developed tunnel vision, and what I did see, became vivid. I don’t remember hearing anything, even when a truck went by me.

I wasn’t scared at all, even though I knew I could die. What I felt was more like disbelief and awe. But no fear.

As my car spun off the highway, I hit a snowbank on the side of the road. My car tipped on its side, then upside down, then on its other side, then upright, then came to rest on its side.

I sat there, still in my seat (sideways), waiting to see I was okay. I was. I got out, tipped my car back on its wheels, drove out of the ditch, and continued on my way.

Years later, I found what happened to me is common in instances of extreme stress. It happens to soldiers and cops in gunfights.

The theory explaining what happened to me is that in these instances of extreme stress, the mind shuts out what it does not consider essential. It focuses on what it considers the immediate threat.

Writes Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Blink,” “Our mind, faced with a life-threatening situation, drastically limits the range and amount of information we have to deal with. Sound and memory and broader social understanding are sacrificed in favor of heightened awareness of the threat directly in front of us.”

This condition I was in was not pleasant. I don’t want it to happen again. But I now understand how things get out of control with soldiers and police officers when they feel threatened. I’m going to repeat something Gladwell wrote: “…broader social understanding…sacrificed…”

In the condition I was in, I had no thoughts whatsoever except that I could die. I was more paralyzed than anything else. If I had any thoughts, they were centered on me. I didn’t give one thought to my girlfriend, my friends, my family. Nothing. Just me.

My imagination shut down completely and I went completely into sensing things. Images in my head? Not a one.

In a way I didn’t even feel ”human” anymore. It felt like I had reverted to something very primitive, which, actually, it was.

When people are in this condition for too long, say soldiers, they end up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What happened to me, decades ago, is as vivid as can be. It’s imprinted on my memory, the vivid memory and feelings of disbelief and paralysis.

I can empathize with some 18 or 19-year-old who goes off to war thinking he’s being patriotic and comes back thinking he’s been fucked bigtime because of what he went though.

I think this is how many soldiers get killed. In this condition, you’re not afraid. But you are paralyzed and not thinking right. You’re not sure what to do.

I’ve even been in this condition, although to a lesser extent, in fights. Tunnel vision, visual clarity, time slowing down – and a reduction in pain.

Because of what happened to me, I know that in situations like that, if they are too intense, you just collapse. If I had been too upset and had a cell phone, I seriously doubt I could have even dialed 911.

There is nothing like going through it yourself to empathize with someone else

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Change Yourself, Not the World

Many years ago I drove a taxi, and once had a girl get into my car who I knew was what was euphemistically called “a working girl.” She told me she wanted to go on a round trip to the county, with me waiting an hour while she “visited” a “friend” in his apartment,

Since this was be about a $50 round trip – this being a lot of money 20 years ago – I was glad to do it. The whole thing, however, did not go as planned.

While I was sitting in my taxi in the parking lot, reading a book, out of the corner of eye I saw a car hurtling toward my driver’s side at a pretty fast clip. I looked up and thought, “They’re going to hit me!”

Instead, the car slammed to a stop and four guys jumped out of the car with hostile looks on their faces. And they rushed me. “They’re going to beat me up!” I thought. Four against one! It was hopeless.

I rolled down my window and was about ready to yell, “You’ve got the wrong guy!” when one of them pulled out a badge and said, “Police! Get out of the car!” So I got out of the car.

They explained they were vice cops and I had fallen into a sting operation. Did I know the woman I had brought out here was a prostitute? I looked innocent and said just as innocently, “She is?!? Golly, I didn’t know that.”

After that they calmed down, three went inside, and the fourth and I had a nice pleasant talk. I was puzzled why they did not search me or even run an ID check. Something weird was going on here, but I did not know what.

After a short while the girl came out, explained what she was doing for a living (“You are?!? I did not know that.”) and that she did not have any money to pay me, since she had not been paid.

In fact, I remember her exact words to me. “I was playing with his dick and he got up and said he was a cop.” Fortunately I was able to keep the poker face on that one.

I took her home, minus both her money and my gasoline. I was puzzled as to why the cops kicked her loose, since she was caught in the act, although I doubt it would stick in court, since I suspect the judge, after he finished smirking about where she girl had her hands, would drop the charges.

What kind of sting operation was that? I thought. I found out a few days later.

The district attorney, or prosecuting attorney, or whatever they call those sleazeballs, was a lowlife named George Peach, George had a hard-on for putting hookers in jail (a one-year term, it being a misdemeanor) and also for putting their customers’ pictures in the paper, along with their names and addresses.

It turned out that George, during all his escapades, was at the same time seeing hookers himself. He was especially fond of blowjobs, and in the sting operation I fell into (which was aimed at him) he was caught on tape telling a girl he liked oral sex, which would make him “feel good.” I did not keep the poker face on that one.

This is the reason why the police let me and the girl go, and did not search us or check us out. We were not the targets of the sting. George Peach was. The cops weren’t concerned about us at all, but apparently could not direct the sting only at Peach, but had to pretend it was aimed at prostitution in general.

Oh, I forgot -- the girl had left an empty quart bottle of beer in the backseat of my car. The police saw it and told me to throw it in the dumpster. They also smiled at me and told me that driving hookers around was a felony – soliciting prostitution. Not that they cared, they hastily reminded me.

In other words, I’d be getting out of prison right about now.

Of course, George had to resign. I remember seeing him on TV saying how sorry he was for what he did. I thought, no, George, you’re not sorry for what you did; you’re sorry you got caught, you candy-ass little punk.

But I did think, why in the world was this guy trying to rid the area of the world’s oldest profession, when he was obsessively seeing hookers himself? I realized that because George could not change himself, he was projecting his problems on the world and trying to change it.

Carl Jung might have said that since George could not accept the split-off Shadow part of himself, he projected it onto innocent people. That makes sense to me, but whatever the explanation, George was one hell of a hypocrite. At least he got away with resigning and not serving a year in jail like some of those girls, although if I had my way, he would have.

After all, if George had been running the sting operation I fell into, do you think I would have escaped, or else spent the weekend in jail since I would not been able to make bail? He’s lucky I’ve never seen him since that day. He’d be sorry.

Projecting a person’s unacknowledged and unaccepted impulses onto other people causes a lot of trouble in this world. It’s the reason people like Jimmy Swaggart railed against people’s sex lives and then got caught twice with hookers himself. I believe, like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady, he blamed it on Satan.

These days, whenever I see someone who is rabidly against some “sin,” the first thing I think is that is their chief sin, and since they are repressing it and can’t acknowledge it, they are projecting it on other people.

Extremely judgmental people are the worst, since they are not interested in understanding themselves, others, or any of the issues involved. Being that judgmental and self-righteous – and maybe even obsessive-compulsive -- their main “sin” is anger. Not toward themselves, but towards other people.

Instead of trying to change the world or others, these people should worry about changing themselves. I always remember Jesus hung out with tax collectors and hookers and the other rejects of society. All the lawyers and politicians and other lowlifes – the self-righteous judgmental types --he mocked and sneered at them. And he told people to “change their hearts and minds” because they had “missed the mark” (which used to be mistranslated as “you must repent, for you have sinned”).

But not a word from him about changing the world, just admonitions to change yourself. This is something all politicians should do, since they are notorious about ignoring their own substantial failings and meddling with everyone else’s business.

Since that day so long ago, I always look askance at politicians (the word “politician” comes from the same root word as “prostitute” and guess which one I prefer?), and should be surprised, but am not, that supposed adults still think government is the tit from which all good things flow. They don’t seem to realize many politicians become politicians because they can’t change themselves and are projecting their problems on us.

And we pay for their problems a lot more than they do.

Apparently many people, dull-witted social primates that they are, look to “leaders” to take care of them. Looking to legitimate authority for answers is one thing, but giving your freedom to a bunch of mental-case politicians – and all government is based on force and coercion – is another thing, and a very bad one, altogether.

As for refusing to change and projecting your problems onto others, I am especially reminded of modern-day chickenhawks, who are cowards who have convinced themselves that rabidly supporting war (as long as they don’t fight ) is a sign of their courage. Those who oppose war, no matter how principled the reason, are, in the minds of the chickenhawks, cowards, In reality the chickenhawks are the cowards, projecting their own unacknowledged cowardice onto other people. (“Fervent patriotism as well as religious and revolutionary enthusiasm often serves as a refuge from a guilty conscience,” writes Eric Hoffer.)

As for George Peach, if Freud was alive, he’d be chortling. I have no doubt about it.

I sure am, even today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Domination, Manipulation and Control

In some ways I don’t people are all that hard to understand. Whenever I see someone trying to manipulate and control someone, I know that underneath they feel inadequate and humiliated. Those feelings of inadequacy come from being abused in childhood – not having their boundaries respected.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an exception to this rule. The more someone tries to manipulate, dominate and control someone, the greater their feelings of abuse and humiliation as a child. The more dysfunctional the family.

I’ve heard it described as pride coming up shame. It’s not the normal sense of pride that’s being discussed, but more like excessive pride to the point of arrogance, the kind of “pride” that is easily insulted.

Every person I’ve ever known with this kind of conceit and pride has been insecure underneath. Terribly insecure, and in every case full of anger, sometimes hate and rage. They often want to get revenge on people.

These people also blame their blame on other people. In a perverted sense, they are right, because shame is based on what other people think of you. Guilt is based on what you think of yourself.

James Gilligan, who spent his career studying murderers, found they murdered after being insulted. They felt shamed and humiliated, and in an effort to repair their sense of self-esteem, they removed what they saw as the cause of their problems.

There is even a shorthand for what these murderers felt – being “dissed.” Disrepected.

One of my friends, who was head of security in an area surrounded by criminals, got along fine with them, and never had any trouble with them. How did he do it? He told me even though they were pimps and whores and drug sellers, street people and drunks, he treated everyone of them with respect. The poor are always with us, as was noted in the Bible, so you might as well treat these people as humans.

Gilligan realized one day what he was seeing over and over was the story of Cain and Abel, in which Cain, who had his sacrifice rejected by God, murdered his brother, whose sacrifice was accepted. Cain would not have done this unless he felt rejected and humiliated.

The curious thing about Cain and Abel is that they are the children of Adam and Eve, who are the original scapegoaters – they get kicked out of the Garden of Eden because they broke the rules, after which Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent – just the way Cain blamed Abel.

If this is not a dysfunctional family, then what is? Two self-absorbed parents blaming their problems on others. These days, what kind of parents would they make? Not very good ones, I suspect.

After all, Adam and Eve did raise a murderer. The parents brought evil into the world through scapegoating and the second generation brought violence through murder. These days, their story could be updated and made more accurate and insightful.

I think it’s clear that self-absorbed parents who blame their problems on others are going to be manipulative and controlling parents, and their children are going to grow up humiliated and shamed and prone to same problems, including violence.

Carl Jung made the comment something to the effect you can have power or love, but you can’t have both. I think he was right.

So many problems run back to childhood. What’s that old saying? As the twig is bent, so the tree grows? Not respecting children’s boundaries, abusing them physically and emotionally, controlling and manipulating them…the problems caused by these attitudes and behaviors are simply staggering when the children become adults.

John Locke wrote hundreds of years ago, “The evil man is the child grown strong.” He was as right about that as Jung was in his statement.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Stimulation of Lust

Most people think of lust only in a sexual context, but I think that’s too narrow of a definition. A better one, I think, is wanting more of what you find stimulating to the point that most people would feel overwhelmed and say “too much.”

When I think back to when I was a teenager – and to some degree I am still like this today – the one phrase I always remembering thinking is, “I want more of this.” I tell people those years were a combination of “Animal House” and “American Graffiti.”

On weekends I would not only come in a 3 a.m., sometimes I’d come in when the sun was rising. I belonged to the party group at school. I used to wonder why all the kids didn’t belong to it.

Drinking, drugs (only soft ones), girls, cruising, partying…I did it so much I realized years later many people would have said “too much.” Drinking and dancing and going home and throwing up? Yeah, probably a little too much.

I was hanging out in bars when I was 15 years old.

We had minibikes, a Styrofoam sailboat, horses, a little lake. We had a huge tractor tire inner-tube a bunch of us would stand on in the lake and bounce it up and down so it would tip over and the rest would fall over on one person. I ended up near the bottom of the lake once with people kicking me in the head.

It was a great time, and I took in all I could. Years later, watching kids go to raves and use Ecstasy, I knew exactly why they did it. It was that lust for experience and stimulation.

Yet, for all that, I wasn’t a glutton. Gluttons won’t stop. I did stop when I was satisfied. What I did, I only did on weekends. The rest of the week I was fine. A glutton won’t stop even during the week. For them, they want the stimulation to never stop.

When I didn’t have what I wanted on weekends, I would often feel bored, restless, depressed and empty. That is the opposite side of stimulation, pleasure and sensation.

Lust can be satisfied for a while, but a glutton, never. Gluttons are also lustful, but it can’t be satisfied, because they have breadth but no depth. With the “lust” I felt there was breadth and some depth, which is why the satisfaction on weekends held me through the week.

When a person is consumed by both lust and gluttony that, I think, is a big problem. They can never be satisfied.

Both lust and gluttony have traditionally been considered sins. The word “sin” though, comes from the word “harmartia,” which comes from archery and means “to miss the mark.” There is no sense of moral condemnation to it.

Both lust and gluttony are based on physical sensation. There is nothing wrong with either of them as long as you don’t go too far with them. What turns them into something better – being back “on the mark” – is when deep, permanent feeling is added to them.

The Buddha, the ancient Greeks, even Freud in his 60s, noticed that those who devote their lives to physical sensation and pleasure become degraded. Physical sensation – lust and gluttony – go up and down, up and down. Satiety to desire to satiety. When you don’t have it – boredom, depression, restlessness, emptiness.

All claimed what put people back on the mark was the addition of love, what the Greeks called Eros (which, contrary to common misperceptions) is not about sex but the desire for union.

Those teenage years for me were up and down, up and down, but that cycle was a pretty long one that went from weekend to weekend. I’ve met people whose cycle went from one day to the next. They ended up being a mess every time, because, for one thing, they were very easily bored.

This knowledge about human nature is not taught in schools, if indeed it ever was. It’s not even taught in church, unless they get it completely wrong and speak of lust as sex and gluttony as stuffing yourself. Even many parents, if not most, don’t understand it.

People have to figure these things out on their own. Sometimes, they end up in therapy, which these days is apparently a very common thing.

What I concluded many years ago there is a very small minority of thoughtful people who think about the big questions. It’s been like this for thousands of years. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “wise,” just thoughtful. They are the ones who advance society, if people will listen.

After all, look at what one man, Jesus, did to the world. And by the way, here was a man who drank wine and went to parties, so obviously he thought nothing wrong with stimulation and pleasure and sensation.

Not surprisingly, these thoughtful people keep coming to the same conclusions over and over, e.g. pleasure goes up and up, and down, ultimately never satisfies, and in the long run degrades the person who devotes his or her life to it. That’s what lust and gluttony, without the addition of Eros, will always do to people.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dangers of Impulsivity

People who are stupid and impulsive end up in prison; those who are smart and impulsive end up in therapy.

There is a time and place to be impulsive – when it’s safe and appropriate to do so – but in general, I have found impulsive people are far more wrong than they are right, because they act and talk without thinking.

Almost all prisoners have one thing in common: they are impulsive. “I didn’t think about what would happen,” they lament, puzzled. Since the average IQ of a prisoner is 93, most are pretty stupid. So, stupidity plus impulsiveness equals being in a locked cell, sometimes for a long time.

I have known smart people who are impulsive. All have problems because of their impulsivity. Most have ended up in therapy. One was told by his therapist: “You are impulsive.” It didn’t seem to penetrate.

People who are impulsive are ruled by their feelings. Animals are ruled by their feelings. Yet animals will flee at danger. Impulsive people will go right over a cliff because of their impulsivity. It’s as if they put their reason in neutral.

Impulsivity is in a sense an addiction. I’ve seen people who are impulsive about sex and drugs. Can’t say no. Some have ended up dead; others with ruined lives, And some of them have been very smart people, at least IQ-wise.

Why are people impulsive? Without feelings you cannot be happy, but being impulsive – which is being ruled by your feelings – cannot make you happy. It’s as if they are trying to suck up every feeling that comes their way, but they don’t appear to have stable or deep feelings for the most part, and since they cannot see into the future, lack imagination. Thus, I can only conclude impulsive people are not happy or imaginative people.

As G.K. Chesterron noted, the ancient Greeks made Apollo the god of reason, imagination, and sanity. Another, Dionysius was, in a word, the god of partying. It takes all of them to make a whole, sane person – not just reason and feeling, but imagination, Because without that imagination -- sanity -- you cannot see into the future. Most especially, your own future.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Understanding and Empathy

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other. -- Carl Jung

The difference between understanding and empathy is not subtle. It is indeed a chasm. Understanding without empathy is wanting power over someone; understanding with empathy is more akin to love.

It is possible to understand someone and not even like them. That’s the problem, If one person understands another and is a predator, they can use that power to charm them, to control them – even if they don’t like them, and especially if the other person thinks they are liked.

This ability to understand and control without empathy has been noticed for a long time. The words, charm and spell (as in casting a spell) mean using words to essentially hypnotize people. The word “glamour” comes from the same word as “grammar.” All mean the use of words to, for want of a better word, ensorcel the susceptible, to gain power without love over them.

Certain people have an almost instinctive ability to understand someone without having any empathy for them. They are the character disorders: the psychopaths, the narcissists, the borderlines, the histrionics.

In a way, they instinctively understand how to use propaganda to brainwash the susceptible. Politicians are masters at this, and the gullible public falls for it every time.

These people can come across as charming and interesting, and have the ability to mark their mark feel special. I have heard the term “love bombing” for what they do. They can see the weaknesses in someone and know how to exploit and manipulate them.

They tend to zero in on people who are kind, generous, trusting, eager to please, self-reflective, competent, talented or “gifted” and, most importantly, people who have a desire to cooperate or work things out and a non-confrontational personal style.

But these predators have no empathy. To them, the other person is always at fault, even (or especially) if they are the ones truly at fault. For all their ability to read others, they have a permanent blind spot concerning themselves.

Yet, understanding is part of empathy. Without understanding, I’m not sure it’s possible to be empathic. The difference is that in empathy the attempt is made to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Exploiters and manipulators cannot do that; the other person is just a thing to them, one to be exploited.

“Putting yourself in someone’s else’s shoes.” If I had to define empathy in one sentence, that would be it.

But how to do it? Of course, there is the intellectual part, which I think is essential. But I think the emotional part is how empathy really happens. And a lot of it is imagination, to imaginatively put yourself into another person’s shoes.

Any number of writers come to mind. Stephen King, for one. How can he imaginatively write about so many different characters, and get them so right, unless he could imaginatively put himself into their shoes?

Conversely, do unimaginative people have trouble feeling empathy? People who can be described as literal-minded? I think they can feel empathy for a very small circle of people, but beyond that, I doubt it. They don’t seem to have the ability to put themselves into someone’s shoes and understanding and empathizing with them, even if they don’t agree with them.

This lack is why some people make no attempt to understand their “enemies.” They see no reason to understand them and find it intellectually, emotionally and morally easier just to define them as evil and let it go at that. They just want political power over their enemies so they can destroy them, and as Hannah Arendt pointed out, political power if the ability to turn someone into a corpse.

The exploiters, the character disorders, because of their lack of empathy and their blind spots, don’t know when they are destroying people, even if they claim to “love” them. I have seen this with my own eyes in people’s relationships.

The truly empathic can put themselves into someone else’s shoes and understand them, even if they don’t agree with them. That’s the real definition of understanding and empathy.

The exploiters and the manipulators – the predators – can understand someone, but there is no empathy. They cannot put themselves into the other person’s shoes and they cannot understand their side, because to them the other person doesn’t have a side.

Most of us want empathy quite badly. That’s the rub, isn’t it? Then we make the mistake of thinking that because someone understands us, they like us, and therefore empathize with us. But if they are exploiters and manipulators, no matter how charming and interesting they are, they don’t like us, as hard as it is to believe. Because we are only there to serve their needs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Safe, Effective, and Illegal

For the record, my drug use consists of a German white wine called Auslese.

That's it. I don't even use aspirin, because it doesn't work on me. Minimum, I need Tylenol with Codeine, which can legally be bought through the mail from Canada. I'm too lazy to get some.

However, unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale as a teenager, from ages 15 to 17, on weekends. Then I quit. Some years later, I realized my use coincided exactly with that prison known as high school, which drove me so crazy I did little more than daydream in school and party on the weekends.

But, I haven't touched the stuff for decades. Except . . . .

A few years ago, as I was walking down a handicapped ramp to my car, my feet flew out from under me and I crashed to the ground on my back. The pavement was dry, and I still have no idea what happened. It was as if the Angel of Death had grabbed my ankles and pulled from the front.

Yes, I know there is irony in the fact I was almost crippled by falling down the handicapped ramp. I was even able to smile about the whole thing after I stood up.

I hit the concrete the hardest I have ever hit the ground in my life. That includes all the tumbles I took on ice during the winter. I found that it is an instinct to hunch your back so the back of your head doesn't hit. But I now understand how people get killed by falling down.

One second I was vertical. A fraction of a second later, I was horizontal. Gravity is not your friend. Neither is the law that mass times acceleration equals velocity.

I lay on the ground for a few seconds, wondering if I was hurt. No cracking of bones, no fountains of blood. No pain, either. Bizarrely, when I fell, I rotated my left wrist, so the soda I was holding in my left hand barely spilled.

Somehow, the keys which I was carrying in the same hand ended up 20 feet away. It took me five minutes, from the point of impact, walking in an ever-widening spiral, to find them in the grass.

The fall happened on a Thursday evening. I was fine until Saturday night. Then my left hip started to ache. Badly. So badly I was ready to go to the ER. I knew there was no major damage, just a bruised muscle or tendon. But no matter which position I was in, my hip hurt. And it hurt so badly I knew sleep was out of the question.

A few years ago I had tendonitis in my left shoulder, which is a swollen tendon. It hurt like you wouldn't believe. I ended up at the ER. The cost: $500, for a shot of painkiller. "That's all we can do for it," the doctor told me.

Fortunately, my insurance paid for most of it, but I swore I would never go to the ER again unless I was taken there unconscious. $500 for a painkiller? No wonder medical costs are out of control.

As I lay there with my aching hip, I wondered what I was going to do. I had no painkillers in the house, and nothing over-the-counter would even touch the pain I was feeling.

Then it occurred to me . . . before the State in its stupidity had made marijuana illegal, doctors prescribed it for all sorts of maladies. Lack of appetite, for one, as everyone knows. That I knew about, considering how much French vanilla ice cream I inhaled on Friday and Saturday nights when I was in high school.

When it was banned, doctors opposed it. Hemp, as it was called then, was used for too many disorders to be so cavalierly dismissed by the ignorant and incompetent in government.
I remember doctors had prescribed it for insomnia, as a muscle relaxer for pregnant women, and for pain.

So, I called up a friend of mine and explained the situation. He, of course, laughed hysterically. "So," he giggled, "you're going to be a 'hepcat' and take a 'toke' of some 'reefer,' huh? I'll see if I can find a 'lid' somewhere." Lid? No one's called it a "lid" since about 1974. And "hepcat" went out in, what, 1956? Oh, he was having a fun time mocking me.

He gave me an amount about the size of a pea. He even lent me a pipe. I felt ridiculous, puffing on that tiny pipe like I was 16 again, but enough pain overcomes anything.

Much to my surprise, after about two minutes the pain in my hip started to go away. Not completely, but enough so that the pain was tolerable. And the muscles loosened up enough so that I could get up without groaning and cursing and staggering around like Frankenstein's monster. And I got sleepy. And I wasn't high, either.

I fell asleep, and when I woke up the next morning, the injury had healed enough so I could get around with a little bit of hobbling and grimacing. A few days later I was fine.

The total cost, according to my friend, if he had charged me for the amount I used, would have been a few dollars. That is obviously a heck of a lot less than $500.

Please don't tell me all about the horrors of drug use. I know all about them.

I've seen kids shoot up when I was 15 years old, I've seen them die from ODs in ditches and from sniffing paint, I've seen alcoholics act completely normal when sober and like they were possessed by demons when they were drunk.

So, the attempts to equate the responsible, occasional use of a medicine by an adult, with the collapse of society, is simply ridiculous.

As far as I'm concerned, it should be part of everyone's medicine cabinet. Unless, of course, you have no problems shelling out $500 for an ER visit, just to get one shot.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Brainwashed as Cannon Fodder

"Those who control language, control the perception of reality."

The United States was originally referred to as "are," as in, "The United States are a good place to live." Each state was free and independent. The federal government was a small, fetid backwater in the swamps of D.C.

Shortly after the War Between the States, it became, "The United States is a good place to live," meaning the federal government was paramount, and the states were no longer free and independent.

Were the Founding Fathers alive today, they would be appalled. Were the average citizens of the late 1700s alive, they too would be appalled. The federal government is about 50 times bigger than they ever imagined it should be. They never imagined an enormous military, crashing around the world, or a Federal Reserve Bank (which is not federal, has no reserves, and is not a bank), or a President who could start decades-long wars without a declaration of war.

Ask yourself this: what good has the federal government ever done? Very little. When you compare the bad it has done to the good (however you define "good") it's not even close. Especially when you take into account the number of people killed by the feds.

The "federal government," in a sense, does not exist. It's a group of people -- a very small group, merely a handful, who have captured it and use it to serve their own interests. The media and the public schools have taught people that the federal government represents the interests of the entire nation. It doesn't.

In other words, a mere handful of people have conned millions of people that they, that small handful, are the nation. And mass man, brainwashed sheeple that they are, has marched off to war, become cannon-fodder, and died by the hundreds of thousands, or in some places, hundreds of millions. Not for their families, not for their friends, not for their nation....but for a handful of people who have grabbed control of the federal apparatus.

As the twig is bent, so the tree grows. That saying applies to children, who supposedly become adults.

Vifredo Pareto, who should be taught in kindergarten, claimed the mass of men are Sheep. The rulers are either Lions, who use force, or Foxes, who use fraud. In a nutshell, nearly everyone is one of the Sheep, eaten (literally) by Lions and Foxes. And most of the time, the Sheep stick their heads into the mouths of the Lions and Foxes! Unbelievable.

Here's what we're taught: Things should be top-down, federal government on top, down to the individual at bottom. The Lions and Foxes are the ones who count: the Sheep are expendable.

The way it should be: things should be bottom-up, individuals and families first, then neighborhoods, counties, states, nation. The federal government, the Lions and Foxes, should be absolutely last, never to be trusted. They should know they can easily be hung by their heels, like Mussolini.

The federal government has now become a behemoth, a Blob, a Black Thing that interferes in the intimate life of everyone.

You can no longer trust the public schools or the mainstream media. How many times have any of them told people their very worst enemy is the federal government?

Here's what else we are taught: we are good and our "enemies" are evil. Here is good, on our side; there is evil, over there, with our enemies. That is the basis of all political and war propaganda.

The reality: good and evil are a continuum. When we see things as good and evil, we will always see ourselves as good, and those who are not-us as evil. That allows us to scapegoat them, to project all our problems on them, allows us to maintain the fiction of our innocence and goodness, and therefore to dehumanize and murder those Others, thereby getting rid of our problems -- even though it never happens that way. What happens instead is war, destruction, catastrophe.

David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a propaganda book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. In their book, the United States is good; those who disagree with it are evil. That is how simplistically the authors see things.

Both writers see things as top-down, federal government first, as representing the entire nation. They also see good and evil as separate categories, instead of the continuum it is.

Of course, neither of these anti-American cowards has any intention of fighting. That's for the brainwashed sheeple. Their job is to tell people what they are supposed to die for -- not family, not friends...but for the handful of people who have captured the federal government. And Frum and Perle, and others like them, see themselves as part of the federal government. To them, your job is to die for their beliefs.

The astonishing thing is the number of people who think they are defending their country when instead they are fighting for the federal government. And I repeat, the federal government consists of a handful of people. Those hundreds of thousands of people are fighting and dying for a handful of people, whose interests are the exact opposite of the citizens.

If nothing else, remember these things:

Things should be bottom-up, not top-down.

Good and evil are a continuum.

The federal government does not exist and is instead a handful of people whose interests are opposed to the citizens.

When people become aware of what is being done to them, it cannot be done to them anymore. It's easy to manipulate people who are unconscious. Those who aware of what is going on, cannot be manipulated.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rose Wilder Lane, Libertarian Babe

I generally vacation in the Missouri Ozarks, and have since I was a kid, with my parents, when we would go to Branson before it turned into a senior citizens' entertainment mecca featuring, of all things, one Shoji Tabuchi, an Asian fiddle player with a huge toothy grin and a Moe Howard bowl haircut.

He's completely normal, though, compared to the Ejector Seat, in which two people are strapped into a seat, with their arms across their chests (perfect for a fitting ready-made into a pine box, in my opinion) and hurled shrieking a few hundred feet into the air in-between two elastic cables anchored to two towers. I opined I wouldn't go on it for less than $1,000 cash, since I had no desire to being catapulted into the sky like those knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when they answered the questions wrong at the bridge. Instead I played miniature golf at the place next door, which featured a real crashed Indiana Jones-type airplane stuck on top of a gigantic fake rock shaped like a skull. Branson's now an unusual town, to the say the least. And I got a hole-in-one, too.

On the last trip, while looking for the Gloria Winery, which has great but inexpensive wine even though the winery turned out to be a shed with an acre of vineyard and a trailer in which the couple who owned the place lived (along with their little dog), we ended up visiting Mansfield, a tiny sleepy town which turned out, much to our surprise, to have been the long-time home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who was not only author of the Little House on the Prairie books, but who wrote every one longhand while sitting in a home-built chair in their farmhouse on the outskirts of town. The house is a museum now, with very low ceilings, since Laura was 4'11 and her husband Almanzo 5'4". You should see their beds.

A connection that I somehow had never made is that Rose Wilder Lane, author of the early libertarian classic, The Discovery of Freedom, was Laura's and Almanzo's daughter. I didn't realize it until we were wandering through the museum and I saw a copy of Discovery, next to several pictures of Rose, one of which caused me to say, "Oooh, a babe." But since she died in '68, when I was busy learning not to fall off of my Stingray bike and to cover up the burns in the carpet I made with my chemistry set, it was never meant to be. She was most definitely a babe, though.

After blurting out that comment, SWMBO (She-Who-Must- Be-Obeyed) asked, You think she's attractive? Yes, I answered. Aw, that's so cute of you, SWMBO answered.

I wouldn't know if I'm a fan of the Little House books or not, since I've never read any of them. I never watched the TV series, not even once, since I could never get past Michael Landon morphing from a Teenage Werewolf drooling shaving cream to Little Joe to Pa. I did read Farmer Boy, which was Almanzo's biography that Laura wrote, and one which I would highly recommend. I still can't get out of my mind ten-year-old Almanzo getting up at 3 a.m. in the middle of a howling blizzard to move the cows around so they didn't freeze solid and tip over. That's not a joke, either. It really happened.

Laura didn't start writing her books until she was 65, long after Rose had become a successful novelist. The rumor, one that we will never know is true or not, is that Rose heavily edited the books and got them into shape for publication. In other words, the skinny is that she pretty much wrote them for her mom. It's a bit ironic that Laura became far more famous than Rose, and still is today. Unfortunately, there are no living descendents, so the line of this talented family has died out.

None of the family was born in Mansfield, although they all ended up there, including being buried. We missed the cemetery, though. Rose was born in Des Met (when it was called "Dakota Territory") in 1886 and died in her sleep at the age of 83 in '68, right before she was to embark on a three-year tour of the world. At the age of 78, in 1965, she was reporting from Vietnam for Woman's Day Magazine.

Rose started writing around 1910 and was a successful novelist long before she published The Discovery of Freedom in 1943. Before that, she was most famous for her novels, which are adult versions of her mother's books, although I had never heard of them until I was in the museum. Nearly all of them are about her life in the Ozarks, including one that has the Politically Incorrect title of Hillbilly.

She was (of course?) predominately a home-schooled child, since she was so bored by school in her hometown that her parents allowed her to educate herself at home. Having been in the farmhouse, I know that her parents had a small room off of the living room, set aside as a library with about 300 books, all of them, as far as I could tell, hardbacks. I don't think they had paperbacks in those days.

As an adult Rose had become a stanch opponent of Communism after seeing it in practice in the Soviet Union (unlike many red-diaper dips of that time, who remained enamored of it, a feat that required not only closing their eyes but their brains and consciences), and became one of the most influential libertarians of the middle of the 20th century. She even became the adoptive grandmother of Roger MacBride, the Libertarian Party's candidate for President in 1976.

She opposed the quasi-socialism and creeping taxation of the New Deal so strongly that she gave up quit her high-paying editorial job with the National Economic Council so as not to pay Social Security taxes. She regarded Social Security as unstable and prophetically called it a "Ponzi scheme."

In a pamphlet called "Give Me Liberty" she wrote, "In 1917 I became a convinced, though not practicing communist. In Russia, for some reason, I wasn't and I said so, but my understanding of Bolshevism made everything pleasant when the Cheka arrested me a few times.

"I am now a fundamentalist American; give me time and I will tell you why individualism, laissez faire and the slightly restrained anarchy of capitalism offer the best opportunities for the development of the human spirit. Also I will tell you why the relative freedom of human spirit is better – and more productive, even in material ways – than the communist, Fascist, or any other rigidity organized for material ends."

In 1958, famed libertarian Robert Le Fevre was so strongly influenced by The Discovery of Freedom he asked Rose to come visit his "Freedom School," which he had founded to promote the principles he said her book had taught him. She became a regular lecturer there for several years.

Her extensive correspondence had an effect, too. About it she wrote: "Twenty one years ago... I used to spend all my time, every day, at my typewriter following up every least lead that I could find. Example: I heard a high-school debate among all pro-New Dealers on the radio, and wrote to each of them. One replied, with all the Welfare State collectivist notions that had been put into his head, but he didn't seem wholly unintelligent, so I kept on writing to him for some months, apparently with no effect, finally getting no answer. Now he turns up as publisher of National Review, telling people that I – i.e., my letters – changed his whole life."

Even though The Discovery of Freedom is Rose's most well-known book, she said years later it was "a very bad book" because of some minor mistakes in it. Still, it has had a profound influence, even now, after all these decades.

What's it about? The book is an attack on statism, nationalism, and what Hayek called the "fatal conceit" of central planning. She starts her story with the old observation that for most of history, people had lived in squalor, with only a few minor improvements through the millennia. What brought them out of it was liberty, the free market, and the emergence of property rights. It has been a kind of miracle, the wealth it has created.

In the first part of the book Rose lays out the one permanent conflict in history: between individual freedom and illegitimate authority (the subtitle of the book is "Man's Struggle Against Authority"). Even today those who seek to impose rule from above call themselves "progressives," when they are nothing of the sort. Like Hayek, like von Mises, like Rothbard, Rose understood it was a backward attempt to impose barbarism and poverty on the human race, to turn the clock back thousands of years.

The first printing of the book, in 1943, was a thousand copies. There wasn't a reprinting until 1971. Since then, it was become one of those early classics, one of those, like Isabel Paterson's The God of the Machine, that can be read and enjoyed by everyone. It's an optimistic book, with passages like this:

"The revolution is only beginning. When all living men know that men are born free, the energy of twenty-two hundred million human beings will be released upon this earth.

"A hundred million have made America. What will twenty-two hundred millions do?"

Such cheerfulness and optimism will appeal to anyone who looks to the future, knowing that even with the two-steps-forward-one-step-back history of humanity, things, ultimately, will get better. It will be due, as it always is, to liberty and the free market.

Imagination and Intuition

I first noticed a few months before I turned 12 that I had an extremely powerful imagination. I could get so lost in a book the world “out there” seemed pale in comparison. Even odder, I felt feelings I had never felt before, which I got from those books.

At the same time. I also noticed I got hunches and feelings – years later I realized they were intuitions – that almost always turned out to be right. I was operating mostly on intuition and imagination. Yet I wasn’t all that “rational.,” i.e.. intellectual.

My grades in school were awful. I graduated from high school with a D+++ average. Technically I wasn’t supposed to graduate, since a C was required, but I had already been accepted to college, so the administration let me go.

I realized I was operating on imagination and intuition, then using what intellect I had to analyze things. It was a slow process. I was slow and thoughtful, not a fast thinker at all. I was very slow to judge, since it took me such a long time to understand things. Some people thought I wasn’t very smart.

I do not believe it is possible for a person to be a fast, deep thinker. Only slow thinkers are deep thinkers. I consider fast thinkers to be like shallow, fast-running streams, babbling all the time. Slow thinkers are like oceans. Maybe that old saying, “Still waters run deep” is true.

I found there were, of course, people like me in the past. Einstein and Thomas Edison, for two. Both were considered slow by their teachers, maybe even a little retarded. I know the reason why. They were lost in their imaginations, intuiting things, slowly figuring things out, not interested in school. Slow and thoughtful.

Adam Smith was the same way. Once, while out walking one night, he was so lost in thought he fell into a ditch. I understand completely.

Such people are the ones who advance society through their inventions and discoveries. Some people are entertainers, through acting, music and sports. Those are their talents. Others, with different temperaments, discover and invent.

In a way, I consider such people to be like the cow-catchers on old trains. They clear the way, and the rest of the train (society) follows them.

Unfortunately, schools have never understood such people. They don’t pay attention, their grades are poor, they daydream all the time. I was kicked out of classes, failed classes, put on detention, suspended from school. I spent my weekends partying.

Schools are actually set up for extroverts, i.e., cheerleaders, athletes, etc. They get the praise. People who are a little more introverted join the chess and chemistry clubs and are considered strange nerds. I never joined any of these clubs in high school (being a party animal) but I empathized with them far more than with the athletes and cheerleaders. I understood the latter far, far more than they understood me.

As you can tell, I am not a fan of public schools. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie praising public schools. “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”? Nope. “Donnie Darko”? Nope.

I do not believe there is any place in schools for the slow, thoughtful, creative students. So I can only conclude these people shouldn’t be in traditional public schools. They should be scooped up and sent to live with their own kind. They’d flourish there a lot more than they are now.

Perhaps there shouldn’t even be public schools. Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and the rest of the Founding Fathers didn’t go to school. Franklin was apprenticed to a soap maker when he was 12. He turned out just fine.

For that matter, what’s wrong with tutors for several kids of this type? Why even send them to school? What’s wrong with bonding with a tutor for several years and having a personal relationship? It was done in the past.

The way things stand now, I think things are going to get a lot worse before then get better.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Sin of Gluttony

The word “sin” is incorrect. The true translation is “harmartia,” which comes from archery, and means to “miss the mark.” There is no sense of moral condemnation to it.

For that matter, the word “repent” is also incorrect. It really means “to change your heart and mind.” So whenever you read something along the lines of “You have sinned, so you must repent,” the correct translation is “You have missed the mark, so you must change your heart and mind.”

Having said all that, I will still use the word “sin,” since it is such a commonly used and commonly understood word.

One sin that I did not understood for a long time is that of gluttony, I am not a glutton. But I have met gluttons, and from them I understood what gluttony really means.

The gluttons I have met have been extremely extroverted people, and I have found they think all good things come from the outside of them, which I believe is typical of extroverts. They tend to be emotionally shallow, and operate on sensation and pleasure, which to them always comes from the outside, from the environment and most especially from other people.

They are the kind of people who are obsessed with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ rock. All sensation, all from the outside. The problem with such a life, as has been noticed as far back as the ancient Greeks, is those who devote their lives to pleasure become degraded people.

The problem with pleasure is that it doesn’t reach a plateau and stay there. It goers up and down. That is its nature, and it cannot be changed. This is what the Buddha noticed as one of the marks of existence: things change, and we try to cling to things that change. If things didn’t change, we’d be a lot happier.

Even Freud noticed that pleasure was an up-and-down thing. If he noticed it on his own, or got it from Buddhism, I have no idea.

Another problem with operating on sensation and pleasure is that you become jaded pretty quickly, and so you need larger and larger doses, just as in drug addiction. Which, in a sense, is what operating on pleasure and sensation is.

Since sensation and pleasure goes up and down, so does the moods of the gluttons addicted to them. They have mood swings, and if they get bad enough, there you have manic-depression – bipolar disorder. This is why I think extreme extroverts, lacking in deep feelings and operating on pleasure and sensation, are the most prone to being bipolar.

My experience has also been that these hedonists, since they believe their “happiness” comes from the outside, tend to get bored very easily. That’s what an up-and-down life of pleasure and sensation leads: pleasure to boredom to pleasure to boredom.

A life devoted to nothing but collecting sensations and pleasure is, ultimately, an empty life, because that boredom is unavoidable. They end up wracked with emptiness, loneliness, nostalgia…trapped in a romantic fantasy world of what was lost and what might have been.

Because these people are so obsessed with sucking up all the pleasure they can, misperceiving it as happiness, they become manipulative and insensitive to others. They lack empathy, since they are so often trying to manipulate others to give them the sensations they need. And greed and manipulation are the exact opposite of empathy.

They may seem people-oriented, or even people-pleasing, but they are actually experience and pleasure-oriented, and people exist to be manipulated to give them pleasure and sensation. They can’t even appreciated what they have, and do not understand the saying, “Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have found on some level these people know they have a problem, and try to fix it by having a stable relationship with someone, They often come across as desperate, once they reach a certain age and are still alone.

This what happens when appetites get the best of gluttons, when they can’t cope with their inner environment and so flee into a ultimately empty world of sensation and pleasure. A life of dissipation isn’t much of a life at all.