21 January, 2008

Real and Ideal

When I look at the world, I judge it from the perspective of the ideal. And the thing that depresses me most, is that wide gap that exists between the real and the ideal. Maybe it's not unusual, but I feel like it must be some kind of deficiency. Why should I judge the world from the ideal? Why can't I see it for what it is, and simply accept it as that? But I'm a perfectionist.

One thing I don't understand, is how a right can be "inalienable" if there are situations where it can be revoked. A prisoner has been alienated from his right to liberty, while a man condemned to death has been alienated from his right to life itself. And, well, the pursuit of happiness is a rather complicated issue.

Furthermore, not every man is created equal. Is this not obvious? I think the true point of the notion is that a person should not be judged on factors over which he has no control - such as the color of his skin, or even his (or her) gender. But then, depending on your personal philosophy, you could argue that even a person's behavior is not under their control (well, I'd be inclined to, at least). But if we are not to judge a person by their behavior, then what good does judgement serve? Certainly, what matters more to a society is what a person does, rather than what a person professes to believe.

Physics is the study of natural law. While political law is based on moral action, natural law is based on possible action. Political law tells us what is and is not moral to do (remembering that morality is subjective), while natural law tells us what is and is not possible to do. From my perspective, the study of physics is the study of constraints. The more I learned about physics, the more I learned about the limits of reality that constrict the ideas that form within the imagination. Why is the human mind capable of imagining things that are not possible? Or, more importantly, what purpose does such facility hold?

Surely, dreams and fantasy can lift us out of the mundanity of our world-weary existence. But if we could imagine no better than what is possible in reality, then would we even understand the idea of anything better than what already is? Would existence not already be the pinnacle of imagination? Does a relative scale work in this instance?

Some would say that philosophy is largely the study of irrelevant questions. Of course, that's a pessimistic view. Society to me is the sum total of mankind's attempt to compromise dreams with reality. And maybe that is good enough, after all, but for a person like me, who sees in ideals, it seems incredibly insufficient to me. What I imagine is probably impossible, but what difference does that make? It doesn't make it any less desirable for me, and it doesn't make reality any more acceptable.

I feel like I'm in an undesirable position. Is that hard to believe? I don't have a job, and yet I don't currently have any bills to pay. I get food and shelter for free, and I can spend my days as I please. But those are only the outside conditions. Inside, I am not content. And my problem isn't my outside world, but my inside world. Something within me prevents me from living a life I can fully enjoy.

What is the nature of this beast? Fear, probably. A form of shadow. A darkness on my soul. When something comes to mind, my instinct is to hold back. This is troublesome, because it prevents me from doing things. But here's the question. Would doing those things be more harmful than avoiding them? Ah. The very question that plagues my every thought. It's quite ridiculous, really. But it's the way I'm wired.

I'm not a people person, and I can't decide whether I'd be better off *becoming* a people person, or by actually avoiding people. But how in fuck can I live a life simply avoiding people? There's way too many people in this world, and they all want my attention for some reason or another. This is the notion of being part of a community. If you're a part of this community, you have to give something back. You are subject to their laws. You are subject to their taxes. You have to be a part of this machine.

But I don't want to be a part of the machine. But I don't feel like there's any real existence outside of the machine, either. Not one that I've found. I've been hiding in the corner, because it's the best I can do, but it's not good enough. So do I have to give in? Do I have to get used to the machine? I desperately do not want to. And even if I convince myself that it's the only way... well, what does that really change? I'm still hiding in this corner.

They say knowledge is half the battle. But it's not. Knowledge is useless in this instance. All the knowledge in the world can't move a single feeling, if its roots are thick enough. I feel like society owes me some kind of assistance. 16 years of formal education couldn't prepare me for the real world. So what, am I just to be tossed aside? Independence. In a world so interconnected, how can anyone utter that word with a straight face? What happens to the people that can't help themselves?

I've long believed my fate to be extermination. If it's survival of the fittest, then I should be dead. But this society doesn't quite work that way. This isn't the jungle. It's a sort of jungle, but it's not the same jungle we evolved from. I envy other people's abilities to adapt. I wouldn't want to be anybody else but me, but there are qualities other people possess, that I would take in a heartbeat if I could.

In a parallel universe, I bet I was a lot more practical. I focused on studying computer programming, and ended up getting a cushy work-at-home job for great money. Some lucky break early on in my childhood resulted in early treatment for whatever personality disorders I may have had. I also ended up becoming a pretty good guitarist on the side, since I didn't constantly avoid practicing. Nothing major, just a local band to play some bars on the weekends - for great fun. I also didn't let my aversion to company spoil my chance at meeting a girl who understands me. My happiness is fueled by my carefully constructed initiative to go out and do the things that I take interest in, rather than sitting around thinking and reading about them. In this life, I lead my shadow, and not the other way around.

Ah, but that's the ideal. Welcome to the real.


  1. I feel like I sort of know where you're coming from. There are all kinds of things I'm not satisfied with the world, but at my core, I suppose I try to be a more or less realistic person; though I say and do some pretty fantastic things, I recognize that the lay of the land is more suited for some things than other.

    I suppose that my side of the tragic coin is that I do these things despite knowing that they're going to fail.

    On the other hand, that does allow me to cope with the daily workings of society. In a way, it's almost like a giant game; you have to do certain things to accomplish your goals and "level up". Grind at the job to get your gil to buy better equipment and skills so you can move on to the next job... which is just so you can grind for the same amount of time and get even larger amounts of gil.


    Then again, I am more or less content being on my own. I mean, here I am, friendless in a foreign country. I do prefer to be around people I like (i.e., my students), but I'm not exactly going insane with the time I spend at home alone, either.

    Another of the reasons I feel like I can understand where you're coming from is that I've had the same types of problems in terms of self-motivation. There's always the knowledge of the road not taken; not because of some misfortune of fate, but because I was too lazy to start walking along it. If I'd practiced more, if I'd practiced harder, if I'd taken it more seriously... so many ifs.

    And yet, even with that knowledge of the past, with those bitter regrets, I can't bring myself to "shape up" and concentrate on things I really want to do now. Where's that motivation?

    I actually had a number of talks about this with Armstrong-sensei because she was concerned about me. My collegiate life is littered with failures of various kinds, though she was most concerned about my academic ones. She asked me why, if I saw how a lack of concentration and motivation in the past put me on a path to failure, I could still repeat the same mistakes?

    She didn't really seem to understand the feeling of fruitlessness that comes with trying to undertake that sort of change. It's almost like (and I really don't want to say this) "once a failure, always a failure".

    Bitter dregs.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of things I haven't wanted to do that I've buckled down and done for some reason or the other that have actually turned out to be rewarding. Waking up in time to get to work every day is one of those things. Hell, working itself is one of those things. I get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that I'm making a difference, no matter how small or stupid, for some people I really care about (my kids).

    It's probably that lack of satisfaction that's keeping you from enjoying your "freedom". You're free, but you've not got the self-control that allows you to enjoy it to the highest extent possible. Rather than spending five hours every day practicing the guitar and learning new techniques or perfecting old, mundane ones, you get distracted by other things and people.

    I don't mean to be overly harsh or condemning by this. It's just a thought. It's been almost two years since we graduated; if you'd practiced for even one hour a day every day since graduation, you would be well on your way to becoming the blues guitarist you want to be, I think. You know what you want to do, and some of the things you have to do to accomplish it, but you haven't actually made much progress in doing those things... so time flows like sand through your hands.

    You don't really realize what you're losing until you've lost it. I certainly know that's how it's working right now with me, thinking about college. It's probably one of my biggest regrets.

    So, every day, if you set yourself some kind of task (start small and go bigger), I'm sure you'll feel more satisfied at the end of the day, having accomplished that task.

    Don't let anything stand in the way of you and that task. Try starting with something useful and pertinent to one of your passions... something like "practice the guitar seriously for 30 minutes". Rather than just playing songs, practice techniques and "boring" things that you don't especially like or think you'll need. Who knows... perhaps it'll come in handy someday. I've never really had a complaint about having too much knowledge. It all fits together somehow, so I'm sure it'll come in handy some way.

    Again, I really don't mean to criticize you harshly. I think you're a good guy; there's no reason I'd have a best friend I didn't admire. I think you deserve to better... and that you can give yourself better.

  2. This is exactly my argument for why Huxley's Brave New World is a far superior world to our own. People don't agree with me because they cling to hot-topic notions of freedom, but in Brave New World your physical and mental capabilities are MADE for the sake of doing the job that you are destined to do... and here's the great part... you love to do that job! They make it so your lot in life is exactly what you want to do with your life. For example some group like astronauts or window-cleaners or something (I don't remember) whose job involved hanging upside for long periods of time, they were intentionally inverted while in utero so that when they are upside down later in life it will make them feel calm and secure and happy. People somehow get it into their head that it's a dystopia to be chosen for a job before your birth, but how many great philosophers have said "Happiness is loving what you have, not what you want," and hasn't every average joe told me "You've gotta love what you do." Brave New World gives us that. We love what we do and our lot is doing what we want to do. The upper class want to be upper class, but the lower class WANT to be lower class, and some people might think it hard to achieve that, but as someone who wants to be a bum, I believe it's possible. We have as much propaganda in our world as there is in Huxley's, the only difference is in Huxley's the propaganda is more sophisticated and it makes us happy instead of just confused. Dystopia? No fucking way.

    I'm with you on the idea that people's behaviour isn't really our own to determine. I certainly dont feel guilty for the "bad" things I do and I've never felt worthy of praise for any of the good things I do. And I think it's troubling how much our situations seem to mirror each other (in the metaphysical, not literal, realm).

    I had SO MANY amazing dreams last night. All of them were about me and Leah being best friends. Although one of them got kind of inventive, where Leah transcended time and took the role of Brad, and we were playing Nintendo. I think it's downright absurd that my mind would keep showing me these things over and over again, like a Guardian Angel taking me to a world where everything is beautiful and then telling me there's no way for me to make that world a reality.

  3. That's really strange, Satanic, because I had an amazing dream last night, too. I wonder if there was something in the air, or maybe the pizza. I dreamed that I was in love, with a girl that vaguely reminded me of someone I actually knew (though not all that well). But we were in high school, and I ended up skipping lunch to console her for some reason. It was great.

    I honestly think that some people are just wired better for success than others. And when you talk to a person wired for success, there's really no common ground there. You can't understand what it is that drives them, and they can't understand what keeps you from driving yourself.

    Don't worry, tarepan, you would have to have a malicious intent to criticize me any more than I already criticize myself.

    When it comes to practicing guitar, well it just seems such an effort. I keep looking for the Rosetta Stone, but all I find is transcriptions of songs, and chords and scales, and maybe there's something to be gleaned from all of that, but I want to know how to know which notes to play at what times. Oh, it's such an effort just to learn how to do something effortlessly...and I want to do it so bad, but I just can't force myself to do it...especially not when there are other things to do. I want to lock myself in a stone cell, completely empty but for a guitar. I'd probably still avoid practicing it, but at least I'd have a much better chance.

    It's impractical, but that's the nature of my avoidant personality. Every anime or manga series, every DVD or CD I get, every book that gets added to the stack is another excuse to do "something else", no matter what it is I'm doing. There'll always be alternatives, but if I'm bored with nothing on the agenda, there's a better chance I'll do what needs to be done.