More Recent Thoughts, Some About Cruelty & Humanism
July 3rd, 2020
i've recently come to believe that there are lots of things that i need to know
& feel that are in my head as a big undifferentiated blob, of sentiments & attitudes
& principles that will make me happy & not destroy me, & i don't have to waste time
separating them & crystallizing them & verbalizing them before i act on them, as
long as i earnestly feel that they add up to a pure & benevolent blob
i also recently realized that this hard stance i've taken this year, of innocence
being a reattainable state of being, is kind of secularly analogous to the idea
that people can always ask god for forgiveness ... they both have the same feeling
of finding a pretense to grant oneself "infinite currency" in their head, to feel
safe & to function better ... one appeals to an external supernatural force to
validate the currency, the other internally derives that validation by meaningfully
managing themselves in relation to a concept they value (innocence)
anyway, here is a conversation i had with my friend nik
me: realizing the feelings i've developed around innocence are like a secular version of asking god for forgiveness, kind of
nik: you feel like you need some sort of forgiveness or catharsis for having behaved in contrary ways in the past
me: it's that like ... the notion of "innocence is a way of being that is always reattainable" is analogous to-
nik: you can always reattain a state of grace via confession and penance
nik: there was something you expressed a week or two ago that i have kind of thought about some and meant to ask
you which i guess is related to this in that. you expressed that like. innocence as being something which it takes deliberate
effort and discipline to maintain and project. and like. i can conceive of it like that, but it feels contrary to what i would
mean by innocence, i think, and i think it contrasts with the idea of innocence as effortless sincerity, lack of ego, etc
me: i think it's kind of like ... lots of the world does ultimately try to exert a
corruptive influence on you, & it's partly about vigilance against that but partly about
that more meta aspect of naturalizing yourself to not even have to think about it
nik: thinking about it and putting effort into it so that you might theoretically reach a state where you don't have to
think about it or put effort into it, but that state is never reachable as long as you exist in relation to outside influence
me: maybe ...
looking to an external supernatural force for validation vs. internal validation by meaningfully managing yourself in relation
to a concept that you value. both practices invoke the same action of like. finding a pretense to grant yourself "infinite currency"
nik: idk if it's possible to draw clean lines between external and internal validation. does one try to atone for
guilt because you have an internal persecutor that makes you feel bad for it in a vacuum, or because you want to be a good
person to other people, or because you want other people to think certain things of you, etc
i was thinking the other day, since i've been reading you know.
catholic fiction. i wasn't raised catholic, and it strikes me as
an intensely weird and alien thing to just be habituated to keeping
track of all the sins you do so you can confess them later
i think it's possible to hang onto and luxuriate in the bad things
you've done and what a bad person you are just as much as it is
to hang onto and luxuriate in the good things you've done and what
a good person you are
i also feel like maybe once you ever tell anyone how good or bad
having done something made you feel, or whatever, there's an
inevitable creeping element of performativity to it, so you can
never like totally circumscribe everything into a personal uh.
idiolect of feeling
the guilt/shame dichotomy doesn't make a ton of sense to me because
they're kind of the same thing ultimately, and you can't separate them.
guilt is like, inbuilt or conditioned shame, shame is public guilt
when you talk about innocence it sometimes seems to mean. like a deliberate
purging of the spirit via rigid adherence to certain ideals. and sometimes
it means an attempt at existing, externally, as a sincere and un-affected
being. maybe the internal aspect is enabled by the external projection?
like the external projection of the ideals, and the maintaining of them,
is the penance that enables the internal state of grace. to put it in those
terms. or maybe it's the other way around
me: that sounds accurate. it's. i think defined in part by contrast against things.
it's about not becoming resigned or giving up or accepting false "hard truths"
nik: self-purgation via refusal of autoflagellation instead of the reverse
me: yes. what's the reverse though
nik: self-purgation via autoflagellation, either literally or metaphorically
me: oh, yes definitely instead of that
nik: to what extent do you feel like. it's about. doing penance for having been jaded or
resigned or tainted etc in the past that you feel guilty for. versus. trying positively to be a
better version of yourself... i think the way it's framed precludes it entirely being one or the other
me: it's mainly the latter. the former is there but it's less guilt & more being driven by the
realization of the terror of it, that it so deeply harms the latter & consequently makes earth worse
nik: you've had kind of. a religious fervor about it. and an almost moralistic revulsion towards
anything that seems to point in that direction. towards jadedness and insincerity and irony etc.
me: mm hm. i don't want to be too confrontational or moralizing. i've been trying to just.
not engage so much with things i don't like, really. to just look the other way. to a reasonable
extent. like it's not like i think very abjectly harmful things should just be ignored
nik: yeah. i'm kind of like. withdrawn and conservative and prudish by nature, tho idk if i'd use those words.
the trick is just. not crossing the line into being a scold and telling strangers how they should live their lives. i
think crossing the line is like. if someone is hurting themselves in some way, at least from my perspective, i don't
think i have any right to say anything to them. if they're hurting other people, that's where it crosses the line
i think everyone has the right to harm themself in whatever way
they want. i think if they want help to like. stop harming themself.
they deserve that. but telling them they're wrong and to stop is bad
and just. unless the person in question trusts you and you genuinely
care about them etc it's just pointless moralizing and it's like
sticking your arms elbow-deep in muck. if they're harming someone
else then i think it's good and maybe imperative to do something.
& here's the sections on cruelty & humanism:
April 16th/25th / May 4th/17th / June 11th/14th / July 9th, 2020
i don't disapprove any less of people who act evil & nasty, but encountering them is making me less depressed now.
i don't know why ...
maybe it's because i've been limiting my potential exposure to that kind of stuff, so it doesn't overload my brain ...
&/or, i've built new & beneficial structures in my head (or demolished old & malignant ones), so that i can see evil people
without getting stuck in endless thought loops, centered around the inability to cope with those people's ongoing existences ...
i used to see people being mean, & i would feel (presumptuously, yes ...) like i clearly, clearly, clearly understood
headspace they were in, to be saying & doing that stuff ... & it was like i could imagine inhabiting it, in first person.
it was like i felt forced to do that, really ...
i can't know if my "understandings" were ever accurate, but they brought me to a central & deeply unpleasant feeling:
like the person was running as a little virtual machine in my head. i don't like it at all, i don't like feeling like
a splinter of me is being squished into the shape of someone i dislike ... & i don't like feeling like i understand
another person's malignance so well that maybe i could pry it apart like a tiny little lego toy & improve
them, if i could just find the vocabulary, but i can't find the vocabulary ...
especially if i could hardly see anything i found even mildly disagreeable without feeling that way!
OH, & of course ... gaining the actual confidence to express positive energy! just feeling like i'm putting out contrary
energy is a huge basic comfort. if i don't like someone, well ... they'll keep existing no matter what (unless i KILL
THEM :P), so putting out contrary energy is really the best i can do, & the only thing that can have any chance of
changing anyone. it's the only way i can have my say & hope to propagate what i believe in, further into the world ... god
knows i've been improved by other peoples' displays of positive energy plenty of times! i only want to reproduce that
i used to be mean, & i wasn't happy being mean, yet i was mean ...
i think some people start off unhappy, & that serves as an initial pretense for being mean. & then that catalyzes a vicious
loop where being mean makes them unhappy, but they attribute that unhappiness to the original unhappiness, which might feel
essential to their lives, & that reinforces their internal justification for being bitter & mean. & on & on
Recent Quotes From My Friends Nik & Paz
"The feeling of a pattern in your life being existential to your existence is so hard
to break because you've loved every bit of perception in your life under it" - Paz
"Trying to emphasize the potential for self-improvement to someone who is hostile to
the idea can't really have a positive effect anyway, cuz it just comes across as
moralizing or behaving like you have secret knowledge they don't" - Nik
"They get a masochistic/autoflagellatory thrill out of deliberately acting against their instinctive
empathy for other humans" - Nik, postulating what people get out of provocative cruelty
"Bigotry and fascism are deep down based on self-loathing, deep pessimism about
humans, and then also a sort of nihilistic hedonism building on those" - Nik
"The thing is, you can't ... Teach people not to be mean or cruel or racist or bigoted in
other ways ... The only thing that works, although it doesn't always work, is for them to
engage with other people who are different than them, and then have them gradually and
unintentionally catch glimpses of themselves in the "other" and realize that all humans
are basically the same deep down, and cruelty to other people is cruelty to oneself" - Nik
July 9th, 2020
i am thinking about how, in my opinion, i was a very awful person
for three to five years & i completely disavow that period of my life
i joined a friend group in 2016 that i deeply dislike in retrospect, & i think that was a big part of it
... & there was plenty of other stuff poisoning my brain too. it'd be simple to oversimplify things, & say,
"if i hadn't fallen in with so-&-so, or hadn't joined yadda-yadda, or hadn't consumed blah-blah, i might've
gone on a straight path of growth that led to & beyond the way i conceive of myself right now! not wasting
all that time!". but that's not true ... i really value all of that stuff as a basis for comparison! it makes
me so happy to view all of that as a discrete section of my life that i'm not in anymore
of course, even if i do feel like i'm in a part of my life marked by strong
positive progression from what came before, i still have a set of replacement
neuroses about that bug me ... it's like whack-a-mole, the fun just never stops
speaking of neuroses, for years i used to be very fixated on the simplistic notion that suffering
enabled people to become better as people, & that any suffering i had experienced was to be
cherished for that effect. but i believed i hadn't experienced nearly enough suffering in
my life & that it made me fundamentally incomplete in ways i couldn't even know. then
on top of that i felt guilty & disgusted with myself, because i felt like by framing
suffering as sort of an ironic good, i was indirectly fetishizing lots of terrible
things that should never happen! & it was just this awful gnarled thought ball
it's ok, though. i don't worry so much about that anymore. it is very possible
to learn from suffering, but suffering is not intrinsically good or redemptive.
there are plenty of people who end up being worse for having suffered
anyway, being a nice good person is paradisiacal & the sort
of propaganda that cuts people off from their capacity to
recognize & express those traits is the worst thing there is
i once read a long series of cruel things that were very focusedly written about specifically me by lots of strangers.
this was very hurtful, unnecessary, & rooted in unproductive sadism. it caused me emotional pain that lasted a fairly long
time after my initial exposure to it. however, in the things they said, i did identify that my public presentation at the time,
albeit being fairly benign, was very unfiltered. careless! feral! resigned to a total lack of self-respecting effort put into
the cultivation of my own personality! so over time, as a response to it all, i did begin consciously moving away from that way
of being, & attempted to build up an identity for which i felt even a corrupted internet sadist could not make a reasonable case
for me being so inviting of ridicule. now i do truly feel that there is no valid measure by which i could be considered in that
way! could it be said that it all drove me to become a better person?! but i am not the kind of person to subscribe to that kind
of outlook, which would promote people beating one another into submission until they're driven in a frenzy to heuristically
formulate ways of being that preclude them being beaten anymore! i guess the more productive principle to derive would be that
there will always be unkind people, so if that is to be a constant, then finding a way to derive positive change from one's
encounter with it must be the best possible outcome
my ultimate form would have the rhetorical ability to have a conversation
with any given scary, bad "four chan" person & plant a seed in
their brain that over time would spread roots into them & grow &
inexorably cause them to cease to be a bad person
there have been times when people were mean to me, where i wish my response had been to cry, rather than feel immersed
in ... what i guess i would describe as a sinking, simmering, numbing feeling, a feeling that accumulates ....
anger is terrible! that gradual, reactive, embittered calficiation of one's personality ... it's terrible
i think that things might be better if people were more prone to cry when someone else tried to hurt them emotionally.
i know that not everyone would actually feel remorse if they made someone cry, but still. just having that visceral prompt
for the aggressor to recognize that they're trying to cause someone pain, & to maybe feel empathy instead
something i dislike about text-based communication on the internet is that you can't see anyone cry. & consequently there is
less impetus to cry. the only way that it can be clear that someone on the internet is crying, is if they make a point of
expressing that they are crying. & then the fact that they explicitly chose to communicate it could just be dismissed as a performance ...
okay, i suppose it might not be strictly dependent on crying per se ...
i think it's very possible to verbally conduct oneself in a way that communicates that same vulnerability & lack of
bitter confrontation ... just a calm & perplexed desire to know why the other person is being hostile. calmly requesting
for them to stop, because you're finding it hurtful, & they should simply recognize that
but online culture encourages all of this strict emotional resilience. snappy & bitter comebacks ... i don't know if this is
strictly bad, but maybe there are situations where if someone had just been hurt, & the other person had felt bad, it wouldn't
have become a vitriolic feedback loop, trading insults as each person refuses to budge,
& the other's eye twitches more & more, while they think:
"How the fuck am I going to emotionally access this person?"
& of course, some people have a way of undermining their own empathy in online conversations, where the other person can say:
"I find this hurtful. these sentiments hurt me." but the offender refuses to take it at face value, & confront it as an
underhanded tool of control instead. there is an aura of inconvenience projected onto their feelings. everything would be
fine if they weren't voicing them. this is a classic hallmark of spats between left-wing & conservative people, you
know, the whole snowflake thing ... "Oh, I gotta submit to your feelings, huh? You're not giving me a CHOICE, huh?"
this is often often less a good faith assertion of one's agency & more a bad faith refusal to engage with oneself about
whether ... it wouldn't be that bad to just treat the other person more kindly
at the same time, i do believe that people have a sad tendency to use guilt & moral relativism to control other people
EVERYTHING IS JUST CONFUSING FOR EVERYONE!
June 16th, 2020
humanism makes me so happy, at least as i understand it.
it looks like some people use that word in dumb ways, maybe ...
i feel better at avoiding cognitive dissonance, because i measure things by whether they make me feel
more human or less. i know what stuff on the internet i dislike because it makes me feel less human.
i only let the internet make me feel more human. it's my justification for when things feel intuitively
wrong. they must be encouraging some suppression of the goodness of my humanity.
i'm devoted to never letting anything convince
me to suppress my empathy or innocence or love
i try to feel like a happy dog
i'm more complex than a dog, & that complexity is wonderful & good,
but it's not in competition with being like a happy dog either ...
i can be like a dog blessed with a more cogent understanding of the
happiness of existing in the world! i feel less afraid of the inevitability
of death. true, i really would like to never die! it's scary to think about.
but as it is, i try to feel like it's the natural course, that like a happy
dog i am born & i die & it makes me happy to follow my course
ok, it's not like i exist in constant bliss of course!
i slip up & i get lonely & frustrated & mad & sad.
but this is what i am finding myself believing in
at some point in the next few decades i'm going to compose an infallible manifesto for human
kindness that will virally eradicate any & all ill will, cruelty, & malice in all people on the planet!
wish me luck, everyone!