Mamacita

I should have been more nervous.

Mamacita, from what I’d heard, can cause terrifying hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea. At the very least it promised to be an intense experience.

But I wasn’t afraid. I was too hungry for her teachings.

Remember this particular experience in Utah?:

I was already firmly convinced that the same awareness which observes this human woman, Me, as she struggles through her thoughts about the world, as she negotiates her fears and desires, is the awareness that flows through everything else that is, i.e. God. I already believed myself to be God. In the tradition of the transcendentalists, of Ginsberg and Emerson, of philosophers and poets and scientists aplenty, I thought of myself as, somewhere deep inside of me, at least, all powerful and all knowing. I Am that I Am.

But what is the logical conclusion of this thought? Where do you land when you follow it all the way? I found out, as the acid that night took me deeper and deeper into my own head, into my own understanding of the universe. What good is it to be all powerful if you can’t manifest the things you want? I wondered. How do I take advantage of this power? Where do I go from here?

There were several things I concluded as I searched myself. One: the entire universe folds in on itself constantly. Every line of thought I chased came out again on the other side, saying the opposite of what it started out saying. Every time I thought I found a Truth, I kept going and saw my own tail still trundling after my front half. I did a series of M.C. Escher thought puzzles, and by the end of it, exhausted and certain I’d solved the mysteries of the universe again, to an even greater degree this time, I suddenly felt convinced that I was just a vast and lonely power, putting on an enormous puppet show for itself.

Since then, I’d been in a deep limbo. Not suicidal, just…not really convinced I was still supposed to be alive. Like, “okay, can I die already please?”

It’s not that I can’t come up with something useful to do with myself. It’s more that I have so many ideas of what to do, and I can’t for the life of me figure out which one to pursue. And I’m not sure I can ever release the part of my heart that assigned itself forever to the one who got away, which means I can never go all-in on love again. Loving someone deeply and completely was always my key sustaining factor, so if I can’t do that again…what’s the point? How am I supposed to care?

Still alive, and tired of coasting through with this sense of futility and disengagement bordering on despair, I knew I had to do something drastic.

The thought of Burning Man kept me going. I made it there, and it definitely lifted my spirits. I went on a journey to find my spirit animal, and despite doubts, I found it, and had the discovery confirmed, as I’ve heard many do, by seeing my spirit animal again shortly thereafter in a clear physical form, in this case a painting hanging above a couch at the Bureau of Misinformation.

I was sitting on that couch, not thinking about much, when the thought floated through my head: you should become an ayahuasca shaman.

At the time I didn’t know very much about ayahuasca. I’ve talked to a handful of people who have taken it at some point, and I’ve seen documentaries that talked about it. All in all, it was a pretty random thought, especially since I’ve never put a lot of stock in shamanism.

When I got back from the desert, I mentioned this to a few people. One of them said, “Oh, ___ did that recently.”

I perked up. “In the Bay?”

“Yeah! She went to a shaman here in the Bay Area and did the ceremony. She had a really cool experience. You should talk to her.”

Talk to her I did. We got Ethiopian food and she told me all about her own experience, and then said she would talk to the shaman and have her contact me.

Now here I was, in the small basement quarters of an experienced shaman, placing my intentions on the altar along with a small pouch of stones and crystals and the ring given to me by the one when he proposed in a last-ditch effort to save our relationship.

“My intention for this ceremony is to learn what I need to let go of, and what to hold onto, to best serve light and love.”

I retreated to my cushion as the shaman and the other companion for our journey smiled supportively. Soon after we drank the earthy, bitter liquid and then waited for it to take effect. I must admit I wanted beautiful visions; I wanted to meet Aya, mother vine, as my shaman said I might. I wanted to be overtaken with a pervasive sense of the wonder and connectedness of this world, to be shaken to the core.

Looking back, I realize this was greedy of me. I’ve already had such experiences (short of meeting Aya.) In any case, she came to me not in a mighty wind or terrifying visions, but in the “still, small voice” of my childhood religion. Almost immediately, gentle questions began making themselves present in my mind. She interrogated me about why I look externally so often, instead of internally, for answers, why I rely on drugs instead of listening to my heart.

My friend also talked about being afraid of being alone, which I guess is also my deepest fear…but I didn’t want to acknowledge it…Aya made me face it.

I have to abbreviate my experience because I want to share some of the most exciting parts and I’m running short of time. Mostly I purged that night, had little glimpses of beauty, laughed at myself, but nothing earth-shattering. The next night I set out with the intention: “To open my heart and mind to the dimensions I have not yet experienced, and to meet any spirit guides who are ready to reveal themselves to me.”

My shaman told me she never used to believe in angels, but now she is certain of their existence. They leave her dimes sometimes to announce their presence.

One of my recent experiences on mushrooms, I noticed that the light imprint on my eye was not following my gaze, but leading it…interacting with me…my first clear experience with an unseen presence. Or, not my first, but my clearest.

My second night involved a great deal of purging as well. I saw a spirt guide who may have been the White Buffalo Woman. Aya kept beginning to march out to great fanfare but staying just hidden…I saw the white edges of her…

I think one of my imperatives now is faith. Faith over fear.

I’m going to have to make this a two-parter. I had another experience with Mamacita on Sunday night, after leaving my shaman’s house. But in the meantime I want to note that one of the most elevating experiences was not during the actual ceremony, but during a spirit journey we undertook, a meditation on Saturday afternoon where she used the drum to help us travel to the Hall of Sacred Conference.

When I arrived, I met the one who got away. “Was this supposed to happen?” I asked, “Or did I mess it up?”

I got the distinct impression that he and I have journeyed together through many lifetimes, that we’ve ‘gotten it right,’ so to speak, before, and that this time we decided to be apart in order to learn how to expand our love to others, to have a more universal love.

“But I have an easier time loving others unconditionally when I can anchor my unconditional love in you!” I told him. “Can we make a new agreement? I think we were wrong…”

All the same, when we came back, I felt a new peace. If we have many lifetimes, and he and I have already shared many lifetimes, and my mission in this one is to learn to be separate from him…just that thought alone helps somehow. Which isn’t to say that I don’t still yearn for him, or hope that our meeting in the Hall of Sacred Conference hasn’t reached him on a soul level, and gotten him thinking…

I still want to meet Aya, but I see her point in using the language of my childhood spirituality to commune with me, in pointing out to me how many times I’ve had evidence of the divine in my life and denied or forgotten its significance, and in demanding from me more faith and patience. Nevertheless, my mind continues to be blown on a daily basis ever since.

Wonder, wonder, wonder…this world is truly magnificent, and we are coming upon an incredible time…

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Fallibility vs. Faith

How do I reconcile the fallibility of man and the command to obey the prophet? Especially when I can point to specific instances when the prophet has clearly been wrong (and continues to be wrong today, HELLO President Monson with your ‘one, two, three, let’s go shopping’…pretty sure Jesus would be about as happy with that one as he was with the money lenders in the temple).

My new friend tells me the story of Saul in the Bible vs. the story of Abraham.

Saul, a king, was ordered to kill a whole city full of unrighteous men, women, children, plus all of their livestock (wealth). Wow. Pretty harsh. He totally does it, but tries to keep some of the wealth of the city for himself, and makes a bunch of sacrifices to God as though that’s basically the same as killing them all like God said.

He gets booted. No longer king.

Abraham is told to get out of a city because God’s about to destroy it. He begs God not to destroy the city. “There’s gotta be some good people. I’ll go find them. If I can find a hundred of them, will you spare it?” God says sure, go for it. He comes back and says, “Okay, how about fifty?” God says, ok, sure. “How about ten?” etc. Finally God’s like, “Sure, if you can find even one person that seems even remotely down to learn about how to treat other people better, city is spared.” Abraham literally can’t find a single person. He gets out of the way, God destroys the city.

Old testament, super harsh methods. Yeah, it’s hard to believe in a God that would do that to people, alllll of those people, bam, dead. Now we get to another reason the LDS church makes sense to me. They don’t believe that any of those people are going to hell. None of them are going to suffer eternally just because their understanding wasn’t developed enough and their culture wasn’t developed enough to facilitate their personal growth. The church believes that even pretty much the worst sinners are going to a place, like, a billion times better than Earth. There’s no suffering in store, just an eternity of growing from one level of understanding to the next at whatever pace you want, in a setting of complete bliss. It’s possible you get stuck there primarily because it’s hard to want to change when you’re already super happy. But that doesn’t seem so bad.

My friend’s philosophy: When we get a command that seems to go against the principle of love, we’re SUPPOSED to question it. He doesn’t want us to be well-trained lackeys, he wants us to understand and take stewardship of the principles.

I like the idea that the prophet isn’t the most holy person in the church, just the current selected mouthpiece; perhaps simply the one that will benefit most from the lessons of that position. This is how I reconcile the obvious and quite serious flaws of leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (and yes, Thomas S. Monson): they aren’t claiming to be perfect, they aren’t supposed to be perfect already, and most importantly, we’re not supposed to follow directly in their footsteps. We’re supposed to maintain our own communication channel with inspiration, and if something doesn’t sound right, we’re supposed to follow our hearts.

Here’s the part I never could make peace with before: sure, sure. You don’t have to follow to the letter. You’re supposed to listen to your own inspiration. But sometimes when Mormons refuse to lock step, they get punished. Like the leader of Ordain Women, or the September Six, or that professor who got fired from BYU for writing an editorial suggesting it’s not ethical to fight against gay rights. How can a church which punishes dissent possibly claim to be supportive of personal inspiration?

But the thing is, they don’t punish people for following their own hearts and trying to love better; they’re only supposed to discipline those who actively rally people in opposition of the church. And even then they give the person a careful, fair chance to defend what they were doing and why, and if they are driven by conscience and faith, they won’t get punished, only asked to consider the effect their dissent might have on the struggle and growth of others. It’s okay to question; not okay to throw a wrench in the operation. I’m not saying this is how it always works out, perfectly, I’m just saying that this is the goal and the method. The implementation of a philosophy doesn’t reflect on the virtue of the philosophy itself. Even if the LDS church is perfect in design, it won’t run perfectly because the operators are imperfect.

It’s important to me to not only calibrate my actions to follow my beliefs, but to make sure my beliefs are inspiring good actions. I’ve already seen some ways that this could help me smooth my rough edges. Become more humble, helpful, less judgmental, broaden the number of people who I feel loving and generous towards; it’s already improving my outlook on life.

I was looking over some of the arguments for and against the validity of the Book of Mormon, and some things resonated with me. I don’t quite know how to explain why, but facing the void showed me the point of faith, the point of giving over, not my agency, not my conscience, but some of my trust to a higher plan. No, there’s no proof that the Book of Mormon is true, it’s not clear how much is supposed to be straight history and whether any of it is fiction, Joseph Smith did a lot of questionable stuff and it’s quite easy to write it all off if you’re looking for reasons not to believe, but it’s not impossible to believe, given a certain set of assumptions.

So. I’m going to sit with it, try it on for size, see how it affects my life for positive or negative. I’m tired, I’ve got good ideas and philosophies but I need help living them (and even investing in them), and I’m realizing I miss this huge, loving, ready-made community, even with all of its flaws. I’m losing my ability to hold on to sheer hope that everything will work out okay just because, and to be positive in the face of the chance that it won’t. I used to feel a bit patronizing towards people who need religion to get them through, but I’m understanding it more now and I like understanding things, even when it involves eating crow.

Life

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated. The triad is no longer a triad but three individuals again. We still have a lot of love for one another, but I have moved back to the state where I grew up, a place where many people are still fundamentalists instead of structuralists. It’s strange but good to be home. Because yes, this is my home. I feel a real sense of belonging here, a sense that I am loved by this place. Also, that I can do real good here.

It’s nice to feel a more pointed sense of purpose. I feel less adrift. I want to write a manifesto. This stuff about Detroit is mad. The world is mad. I had a long talk with two twenty year olds on acid, they kept telling me in all earnestness that they felt the continued existence of poverty, starvation, homeless, preventable diseases, was a tradeoff they were willing to make in order to be able to theoretically have as much as they want of everything they want. What??? One of them literally told me, “but if there were no starving children, how could there be wealth?” In other words, they weren’t ignorant to the fact that people starve, not because of lack, but because of allocation of food…and they just didn’t care. They really, really didn’t.

I was pretty taken aback. I kept saying, “You don’t know what you’re saying. You can only say that because you don’t know what you’re talking about.” They are really sweet, hospitable guys, very kind to me, shirt-off-their-backs kind of kids, but WHAT???

Adulthood, I feel, is the moment when you realize the world really does not revolve around you, the moment when you stop letting all of your actions be dictated by your own fears and desires, and start measuring your needs against the needs of others, and letting the greater need win (nine times out of ten, at the very least). So basically, our whole world is run by people who have never reached adulthood. It’s run by a bunch of greedy adolescents who have somehow convinced the masses that their secret machinations behind closed doors are more valuable to the world than our labors to make the world cleaner, safer, to built the things we all use and  their selfish ends more visionary and noble than our collective desires we would have to negotiate without their leadership, their power more real than our power.

What a huge lie. What a huge, silly, lie that we all live by, and support with our complicity.

Are we so afraid of examining our structures that we refuse to seize our collective resources from them, even as they allow great swaths of us to starve and suffer? Are we really willing to let them sit atop their spoils, knowing as we do the murder, the thievery, the lies, the coercion that formed the current arrangement?

What a strange world. Aren’t we ready to heal yet? To trust each other? To stop kowtowing to a bunch of silly, self-important boys? To end the inferiority/superiority complex this world is caught in?

Creatively Rethinking the Apocalypse

This week in hope:

It’s a common perception that as time goes by, the world becomes more and more corrupt. If more and more people are airing their dirty laundry in public (i.e. openly living in nontraditional relationship structures, getting divorces, openly doing drugs, consuming pornography, eating gluttonously, getting into ridiculous amounts of debt, etc.), this means we are getting too comfortable with evil and we’re on the path to our own destruction.

A recent report from NASA offers a different perspective on our impending apocalypse. Comparing the collapse of giant civilizations throughout human history, a team of applied mathematicians, natural and social scientists identified some common factors which predict that, as we suspected, our society is heading towards its doom, but not for the reasons we think.

According to the study, it’s not our inability to overcome personal vices that dooms us, but our complacency with society’s vices. In other words, we’re heading towards destruction because we have allowed the elite to establish economic growth as humanity’s top goal, not because we’re too supportive of prostitutes or our drug policies aren’t strict enough. Our world is collapsing under the strain of corporations who refuse to mediate their impact on humanity.

Ultimately, humanity’s survival will depend upon our willingness to save one another from destruction. If we stand by passively as the world descend into chaos, are we not culpable for one another’s deaths? There’s a saying about “the lion laying down with the lamb” in paradise–which I think is a pretty fine clue that we’re not supposed to be waiting around for God to turn the oven to self-clean. We have the makings of paradise right here and now, if only we’d help it along instead of waiting for death to deliver it.

Tune in next week for some prime examples of this phenomenon, as sufferers of mental illness speak up, insisting that their worlds are not so lonely, foreign, or hellish as one might think. At least, not until the silencing begins.

Life, the Universe, and Everything. 42. Done.

Why is this universe the way it is? Because it’s this universe. The answer is 42; or might as well be.

I had a very profound experience the other day. Mushrooms have always had the ability to suppress my will —I’ve always felt fearless, calm, and hyper-aware of all around me, which I now understand to be the natural state of being, when separated from will.

In any case, rather than my will being suppressed, this last time I was barely tethered to it. I existed as awareness, with only the faintest shadow of my will maintaining ties with the outside world. Lying in the arms of h, in one of the moments when I was feeling more time-bound, I told him “I am everything.” And it was true. Whenever I floated away from myself, I was the whole of Existence. I just was. And it was good.

The deepest part of ourselves is one with everything. Time and will make us feel cut off and alone, but the whole of Existence is always surrounding us completely and living inside of us at the same time. As I tumbled back into my will and my timeline, as my fears and desires started to assert themselves, I kept having two flashes of thought—first: would this new perspective somehow help me cheat at life? What practical application could this possibly have? And second: would this ruin life for me? How could I invest in my very specific timeline with such a keen awareness of how ultimately equal each possibility is? Knowing how much more I am than this human woman with her fears and desires, how could I care enough about her life for it to feel meaningful at all anymore?

As the knowledge settled in, it became clear to me that this is undeniably a blessing. I learned a long time ago that philosophical investment in or certainty of a meaning has no effect on my personal drive. I had decided that life was meaningless and there is absolutely nothing that can be counted upon, and I was all set to commit suicide. But then I started working out the implications of my internal discovery, and then I was thinking about coming home and writing about it and I didn’t want to kill myself anymore. Will is a powerful thing—especially when we are unafraid to live by it.

Since my experience floating in awareness, I know what my eternal self wants for my temporal self: it wants it to pursue its will according to nature. There are no punishments but immediate ones for our missteps; if we treat others poorly, we will have very little love in our lives. The natural way of things is the give and take of negotiating and weighing our desires and fears against those of others; there are natural consequences when we violate each other. When we are dishonest or coercive in achieving our goals, we are overriding this natural way of things, and even this has a natural punishment: just like any other shortcuts or cheat codes, we cheat ourselves out of the experience just as much as we spoil things for others.

Much of the misery in the world comes from the sense that our desires are at odds with some nobler purpose we embody. It’s quite the opposite. Our desires are the path to our higher purpose.

Why do people feel empty when they pursue only pleasure? Because an eternal being cannot be satisfied by the temporary. Pleasure can only be experienced by something which feels desire–pleasure is not eternal.

What is eternal is harmony–the sense of things aligning with their nature perfectly, the sense of things achieving their innate purpose. Happiness is the sense that all is right with the world, the feeling of being satisfied with everything and everything being satisfied with you.

When we pursue personal and communal growth according to our desires, we feel joy, the combination of pleasure and happiness. This pursuit can sustain us forever. Anything short of that will bring only a sense of frustration that our pleasure doesn’t translate into happiness; frustration that our happiness comes at the expense of our pleasure.

My drive is to document, interpret, and communicate experience, with the ultimate goal of helping humans to find our purpose. There isn’t much keeping us from ending all unnecessary violence, developing forms of self-governance that make any kind of logical sense, and eliminating some of the worst behaviors of humanity—all we need is the confidence that working on behalf of everyone will benefit us all. These thoughts and efforts sustain me, they live in me regardless of how reasonable or unreasonable this pursuit may appear to others, whether or not it brings me rewards.

I am will. I pursue what I love and avoid what I fear. Until time releases me back into the great awareness, I will try and do my tiny job in the universe as best I can. When I look into your eyes, I know the same is true of you: you are all of awareness, wrapped by time into a physical form. I know we are cut off from each other, and we are each other. I know that it is in my interest to support you in attaining your will, and it is in your interest to support me.

Consider the implications of this worldview. Consider the all-embracing love it encourages. I fully advocate this as truth. We have nothing more at stake than our mutual experience here; we are nothing more or less than brilliantly complicated little stories. If we start living this way, the world could get hugely better very quickly.

I’ve tried to break my understanding down a bit more in a series of questions. It’s hard to quantify. My brain isn’t made to hold the sort of dimensions that go into what makes up awareness; mostly what I remember is a feeling of well-being and certainty.  But the general idea of what I experienced filled in a lot of gaps in the philosophy I’ve been working on. A LOT of gaps.

Who am I?

I am the one who opened my eyes.

What is my purpose?

To exist as nature dictates.

What is nature?

Nature is will and being.

What is will? What is being?

Will is desire and fear. Being is that which exists and knows it exists; awareness, existence, form; the great everything.

What is the relationship between the two?

Being is the eternal self, the part of us that will never cease to be. Will is temporary. The eternal does not will; it is—unchanging, unmoving, permanent. It does not start or end. It does not live or die. The part of us that dies is the will. The part of us that does not die is being; Everything.

There is no separation between the self and the Other. This separation is an illusion of time. Time wraps around awareness, cutting it off from the rest of itself, which allows it to form will. When time releases awareness, it ceases to have will and becomes once more Everything.

What does nature dictate?

Nature directs being through will. Each life builds, or loses, in accordance with its wills and fears, a place in the balance of things. My very reason for being is to exert will. I am desire and fear; I am that I might desire and fear. I need not be ashamed of my fears or desires. I may pursue them without doubt or guilt. The entire everything supports me in achieving my will according to nature; I am everything and it is me.

What goes against nature?

Nothing is unacceptable to nature. Will can only exist in Time and therefore cannot be permanent; nothing can disrupt the eternal. Nothing good or evil is absolute; therefore good and evil are relative and timebound. They exist only in relation to Will. What is good to me may be evil to another; what is evil to another may be good to me. Therefore good and evil exist only in the relation of things to one another; in the relation of me to all that is not me, the Other.

What is the relationship of myself to the Other?

I am that which looks out of my eyes; the Other is Everything Else, being—which includes my eternal self. Each time I harm the Other, I harm myself. We are innately invested in each other.

What should I do?

Anything I like. Nothing is more or less important than anything else. Everything is important because I am will; nothing is important, because I am eternal. It is up to me to negotiate the difference between the two—to temper my will with awareness of the Other; to negotiate with the Other in order to enact my will. I can avoid harm to my temporal self or risk harm on behalf of the things that are important to me. I can pursue pleasure only, or happiness only, or I can seek out joy.

So much of our efforts are directed to criticizing and shepherding one another’s wills; justifying and defending our own wills. Once we turn our focus from all agreeing on the same pursuit to enabling one another’s various unique pursuits in the most harmonious way possible, we’ll be able to solve our problems very quickly and easily.

I’m no longer afraid of death, or confused about my responsibility to myself vs. the Other, or what my allegiance should be to my immediate will vs. destiny. I sincerely hope that you, too, can see what this means: there is nothing to fear. Everything is OK, always has been, always will; you may not see how yet, but you will. The part of you that you are so afraid of disappearing will never disappear–only the fear itself will. It’s ok. We’re all ok.

Fear Itself

This is a diary entry from August. It’s a look straight inside my head and some of my worst insecurities. It’s hard to talk about social anxiety because it has such a stigma attached to it, or at least, it does in your head, if you have it. Which I did.

I finally figured out how to claw my way out of that well about two years ago, but it’s a slippery slope from self-doubt to full-on paranoia, and I spent a panicky couple of days trying to find my confidence again. Here’s the entry:

 

Fear is the enemy of love, and I am fearful right now.

My emotional landscape has been such a clusterfuck these past several years. I just need to keep remembering that life moves in cycles…why is it that despite all evidence I tend to think that each new emotional state is eternal (except happiness)?

I’d been enjoying a state of confidence that relied maybe a little too much on detachment—awesome, everyone here seems to like me great, but I’m probably going to move to L.A. Bye guys. I appreciate you objectively but I am also uninvested.

Now I’m starting to invest. Which is great! I was not enjoying my perpetual detachment. I was starting to feel like I had simply moved past the ability to…well, I wasn’t sure what exactly. Love? I love a lot of things and a lot of people though. Trust?

That word is perfect though: the word h used. “I am invested in you.” That is the best way to describe what it means to start leaning on someone a little, to allow yourself to count on them in certain ways, to give them parts of yourself that they may or may not appreciate.

So. I’m investing in h. Actually by the time I figured out what was happening I was already invested. I was thinking of him as an interloper into the me & c thing for so long, somehow I didn’t notice his reliable presence, his affection and tenderness with me.

It’s sort of blurry whether the insecurity crept in first…I was feeling a bit vulnerable because of c getting full time at work, though she has more experience, knowledge, and investment than I do. Emotions are really very silly things, when it comes down to it. Not very useful. The only truly useful emotion is love.

I’m glad that I’m falling for h. He’s so good for me. I’m tickled by the way this snuck up on me. Somehow it escaped my noticed long enough to grow to the point where I can’t quickly overanalyze it to death. But I seem to be trying!

It’s just that now that I have feelings for him, I have all of the feelings. I really, really like him. I’m experiencing a pretty intense barrage of affection. He’s the Finn to my Fiona. I’ve always wanted someone who still approaches life with childlike wonder. Who can be sincere but not over-serious, playful but reflective. He’s soulful, youthful, wise, kind, gentle and aggressive by turns. He’s vulnerable but strong. He’s perceptive, careful, funny, spontaneous, discerning. He is very passionate and doing what he loves—so attractive. And he’s well-liked and respected in the community. And he loves my dog and she loves him.

He’s inspiring me to be more, to be better. But somewhere along the way I’ve started finding myself feeling fearful, often, that my anxiety will drive him away. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, indeed. Insecurities feel like they’re there to help but they’re not! They’ve been yelling so loudly all the time lately. I can shut them up but it takes some work, and in the meantime it’s just really unpleasant to feel a sustained and persistent fear that you’re annoying and unlovable and you’re going to drive everyone away.

It’s such a crazy fear, and maybe the best definition of self-fulfilling prophecy there is. Because, see, I make a good first impression, and as many people will tell you, first impressions are the most important, right? So all I have to do after that is…maintain the non-illusion that I am a friendly, interested, interesting person who likes fun and people. Why is this hard?

Oh right, because I spent my entire life (excluding the most recent two years and perhaps some of the early ones) taking other peoples’ reactions to me as the bible truth of how they felt about me, and by extension, how innately loveable (or unloveable) I was. And that lizard brain (as my dear friends l and h call it) has resurfaced. If I’m learning anything in my life, it’s that we never defeat a demon to the point where we won’t have to fight it again. Demons never die. But we do gain the capacity to banish them from our mental landscapes.

So, this one’s back, and it’s proving pretty tricky to banish. I need to revisit how I beat it last time.

Here’s what I did: I figured out that not everyone needs to like me. I figured out that some people get off of on not liking people; these kinds of people get off the most on not liking people who need everyone to like them.

The only way to stop being a target of hatred for this kind of person, paradoxically, is to not give a shit about whether or not people like you. But this is easier said than done (fourteen years later!)

I stopped giving a shit about whether other people liked me when I started respecting my own opinion about myself more than anyone else’s. This is the only thing that makes sense to do, because although I am not objective, I’m the only one with access to my motivations, my pain, my emotional state, my circumstances, my fears, what I can endure, what I cannot, what I have already endured, what is difficult for me, what is easy, the things that have power over me.

The way I recognize a paradigm shift in my life is when I figure out a way of seeing the world that makes my life better in every way. When I evaluated my actions based on what I knew about them instead of what other people thought about them, it didn’t just change my perception, it changed the actions themselves: I was focused on actual integrity instead of appearance. Instead of trying to convince someone else that I had definitely tried my hardest, I took a good hard look at whether or not it was true, and usually it wasn’t, which inspired me to try harder the next time so that I would be more satisfied with myself.

The time I used to spend figuring out how to present myself to others in such a way that they would understand my motives and never blame me or think less of me for my flaws or mistakes went to working on bettering myself, improving on those flaws and mistakes.

I was more forgiving of myself. I am who I am right now, and I can’t grow faster than I grow and I can’t learn faster than I learn—instead of focusing on whether I’m good enough right now, I began focusing on learning faster. Being more forgiving of myself made me more forgiving of others as well, less likely to make snap judgments or decide someone’s value based on my perception of them in the current moment.

So yeah, you can see how I have all of the weapons to defeat the specter of self-loathing. Why is it back in force?

I think one reason I’m having trouble fighting it is because I’m using the wrong weapons. When I try to fight it off with things people have said to me that seem confidence-inspiring, like c telling me that the first thing everyone says when they talk about me is how beautiful I am, or h telling me…any number of things…he really likes me! He says so all the time! the demon just laughs. All that could change in a heartbeat, remember? Remember all of the people who started out liking you until you grossed them out with your needy, frightened personality? Remember how in grad school, nobody invited you to things, and you could tell they wished you weren’t there sometimes, and

Except, that’s not really how it happened. What it came down to was, I made myself feel unwelcome. Nobody did that to me—I did that. I assumed my presence was a drag (until it became one.) I read terrible things into every non-invitation. I let tiny things needle me—something I said that no one laughed at, a stern word someone directed at me, someone’s joking insult with a bit of truth to it. I fed the feeling of inadequacy and unwelcomeness. And while my friends’ love didn’t feel very present or available to me much of the time, it was there—they didn’t stop loving me, I just stopped accepting their love.

It’s strange to be so down on yourself that you’re almost entirely self-centered. It’s fucking unpleasant. I don’t like being that way. But I’m back there a bit. It’s ok. I keep having to talk myself through the steps, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to take for me to feel somewhat secure again, but I’ll make it back. I just need to give people at once more credit (the demon says everyone is simply waiting for a misstep to dismiss me from their esteem…) and less credit (they are just people like me, with their own insecurities and deficiencies and areas where they could do better…I remember what a revelation it was to figure out that f’s attacks on me, such as they were, manifested her own insecurities…why be mean to someone if you’re happy with yourself, right?)

Shut up, demon. No one is out to get me, nor is anyone poised to hate me. And if they do, well, it’s their problem, not mine. I’m perfectly loveable. I can do what I feel like and people will still like me. I can be considerate without being ingratiating. People will love me even if I do things wrong. People will hate me even if I do things perfectly. Trying to please everyone will not hold them close to me, it will push them away. They want me to please myself.

This applies to art, too. How good is something going to be that you tried to make good enough for someone else? Not nearly as good as something that you tried to make the best possible version of itself regardless of what people think.

When I get like this I forget who I really am and become just this big fearball until all I can see of myself is this human whine.

What am I, h? I’m falling out of love with me and you’re falling into it so I’m going to try and see what you see (instead of freaking out that I’m going to ruin it.)

I do have a freaking awesome sense of humor. I enjoy h’s personality so much because I’m like him–I like to make a game of life. I don’t take myself too seriously. I make a conscious effort to enjoy and appreciate beauty. I have a big heart. I care about people, the world abstractly, and I make a really good, considerate, conscientious partner. Yes, I can be needy and dorky, yes I try a little too hard sometimes, yes, I’m occasionally lazy and I’m not in perfect shape right now, but none of that is enough to make anyone stop loving me. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I am always changing and bettering myself.

I may not be fully established yet in my career but that doesn’t mean I’m not good at it. I just need to work harder and stay focused.

This exercise was so good for me. It’s definitely helping me to regain my confidence. It’s also helping me feel more motivated to become what I want to become. So is h. I’m so glad he showed up. I’m so glad he stuck around long enough and patiently enough to let me know I had nothing to fear.

 

So. That was about six months ago. Hard to talk about, but those steps helped me and maybe they’ll help you.

 

Transgression Healing

Transgression healing. I have a lot to say on this subject.

What is transgression?

Some of it I’ve said before. Like the fact that the people who insist the loudest that it is, in fact, possible for us to completely ignore and deny and not even think about the things that tempt us are often the ones doing the really fucked up stuff in our society. The people who think the best way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to somehow turn them off end up obsessing with turning them off which leads them to give the ideas more power than they deserve, since thinking about not thinking about something keeps you thinking about it (ad nauseum). The rest of us might spend some time thinking about our bizarre fantasies, might even integrate them into our sexual role play or find some other outlet for them.

You see, people who follow the big man in the sky (or rather, the group of people here on the ground who claim they can communicate with said invisible man) tend to do, or not do things for the wrong goddamn reasons. You don’t stop yourself from raping little girls because some all-powerful stalker thinks it’s a bad idea and will punish you if you don’t. You don’t rape little girls because it hurts them and fucks them up and makes their entire experience on this earth exponentially harder and you don’t want to do that to other people because of this crazy thing called empathy.

Temptation

People of true moral fiber don’t need the promise of some eternal reward or punishment to stop them from doing bad shit to others. That noise is just a distraction. You are in possession of the basic common sense needed to translate the pain of your experience to other people’s experiences, and the basic empathy not to want others to feel pain. Don’t outsource your sense of right and wrong, it just fucking confuses you.

Example: when I was a teen, I experienced the insane rush of brand new hormones that nearly ever human goes through. I wanted sex all the time. ALL the time. I thought I wasn’t supposed to think about sex, I thought I wasn’t supposed to masturbate, so I would just try…not…to think…about the incredibly tantalizing little red button between my legs which made such wonderful things happen to my body whenever I touched it…don’t think about it…don’t think about how good the anticipation already feels, even without doing anything…don’t move ever so slightly in your seat so that the crease of your jeans rubs it a little…don’t think about some man putting his hand between your legs…

Dude, I wanted so badly to be a good person. It was literally the most important thing in my life, nothing else came anywhere close, but try as I might, I could not be a good person. My desire to “be righteous” was an intermittent, still, small voice and my desire for an orgasm was a constant yell. I never had a chance, but I hated myself for not stopping. I thought of myself as a sinner, a weakling, a pervert. I was miserable.

The REAL Slippery Slope

Along with all of this lovely self-hatred, there was this strange equalization of all sins. I was a sinner. I understood there were greater and lesser sins, but at a very basic level, once I crossed the initial line, there weren’t any more lines to cross. Once I felt the temptation and didn’t banish it immediately, I was already in the country of the sinner, where anything goes. Sort of like when a dieter eats that chocolate he’s offered by a coworker and then goes to the buffet after work and stuffs himself because he already messed up. I was like that.

Because of this, I crossed some lines I shouldn’t have crossed. Did one or two things that common sense and common decency should have stopped me from doing. Still fairly innocent, but things I can now say with confidence I would never be remotely tempted to do now. My basic respect for others stops me where religion never could.

Religion and a Better World

Yeah. Go church. You didn’t help me for shit. You just made me feel really, really bad about myself over something that wasn’t hurting a single other human being ( and was giving me a pretty startling amount of pleasure) for many, many years. And we have plenty of evidence that religion is not so stellar at stopping people from hurting others. It sure didn’t help those priests. Or the crusaders. Or the Inquisition. Or the terrorists who bombed the world trade center. At the heart of nearly every major religion on this planet is a message of peace, forgiveness, kindness, and love. Most of this world belongs to one religion or another. So why the hell don’t we have world peace yet???

Pshhh. Religion. Fuck that shit. Humanism. That’s what it’s about. Loving other humans, being good to other humans.

Make decisions for yourself, kiddos. Don’t let a religion do it for you. Don’t let a society do it for you. The rules they’ve designed are entirely arbitrary, and they can’t keep pace with the way the world is changing around you, they way you are changing with the world. Don’t worry about “sinning.” Worry about being good to others. If that’s not your first concern, you’re going to fuck up on it way more often than is fair to the rest of us, trying first and foremost to love our neighbors and second, to heal ourselves so we can love our neighbors better.

The Self-Involvement of Guilt

Okay, so say you’re worrying about being good to others, and you fuck up. Yeah, that’s going to happen. No doubt. Now what?

You probably beat yourself up a lot when you do something wrong. You’re probably like, “I should have done better. I wish I’d known. I’m never going to get a handle on this. I suck so bad.”

Probably the most fucked up thing about religion, in my opinion, is the extreme separation of action and consequence. The normal, healthy, natural sequence is this: someone acts, they learn from the consequences not to act that way again, or they don’t and people revile them and eventually they learn from being reviled, or they don’t and they die.

With religion, someone acts, and then god gets involved and muddies everything up. Because now, you’re not just paying attention to what you did and how it affected others and how it made you feel, you’re also thinking about what this supernatural being is going to do to you because of the act, whether it’s going to mess up your chances to wear wings and play a harp someday, whether you can consider yourself a good person or not anymore, what rituals etc. you’re going to have to undertake in order to consider yourself a good person again, and have you noticed how entirely self-involved all of this reflection is?

If you think about it, guilt and shame are pretty self-involved. They’re unpleasant, they feel like a punishment, they feel necessary and deserved. But in the end that’s just more mental energy you’re spending on you and your feelings, and less you’re spending on what you can do differently next time and how you can genuinely make it up to them.

Guilt is a waste of time. You don’t need guilt to make you want to do better. We all have that drive, the drive to be better than we are. Cut out the middleman and channel it. Being a good person makes you feel good. That’s why you should do it. Treating others poorly makes you feel bad. That’s why you shouldn’t do it. Don’t waste time on any other convolutions or explanations. Those two are enough.

Self-Forgiveness

We all want to be perfect right now, and we all have a sneaking suspicion that we’re supposed to be…that we could be, if only we didn’t keep fucking it up.

It’s been an important part of my journey forgiving myself for the stuff I’m not good at already, for the things I don’t know but wish I did, for the mistakes I keep making. You knew what you knew; can’t change that. The only thing you can change is how much energy you put into knowing next time. You learn at the rate that you learn. No reason to beat yourself up about it. The only thing you can change is how you approach learning, how much time you spend, how creative you are about it.

It’s the sphere of influence. Don’t stress about what you can’t change. It just keeps you from changing what you can.

The better you get at doing this for yourself (“oops, ok, didn’t like that but it’s cool, how do I do better next time?”) the better you get at doing it for others. That guy who just chewed you out for getting in the wrong line? Chances are he’s doing the best he can do right now, or the best he knows how–so he must really be going through something. Brush it off and give him the benefit of the doubt.

And the best part? The less judgment you pass on others for the ways they fall short in your life, the less judgment you imagine them to be passing on you, and the more and more peace of mind you attain as you strive to better yourself. After all, if you’re always trying and observing yourself and being aware of others and learning, you’re really and truly doing the best that you can, and instead of defending that, you can just hold that for yourself, hold it in yourself, use it to feel calm and confident. Adjust course when it stops being true. And then sit back and enjoy being as right as you can possibly be at any given time–it’s a nice feeling.

How We Can Change the Entire World in a Matter of Weeks

We’re at a unique point, the first time in history nearly every human society is in contact with every other. It’s the first time in history it makes sense (and is possible) for us all to agree, collectively, on peace and trust. It’s the first time in history we’re all capable of communicating with each other faster than our governments can stop us. If everyone agrees, across the globe, that we’d prefer world peace to war, what government could convince us we need to attack those infidels in that other country?

Yeah, in the past if you had a peaceful society of humans, you were liable to get stomped on by some more vicious tribe. But now we can all talk to one another and say, “Hey, my people are getting ready to attack your people. How do you feel about this?” and we don’t have to kill each other instead of communicating. If most humans, worldwide, agree to band together, we’d be equipped to deal with any minority revolt against peace, equality, and justice (not to mention vastly better prepared for an alien attack.)

There’s literally not a single reason, outside of the desire to have a bigger piece of cake than anyone else (an antisocial desire), for us NOT to band together. Can’t you feel our learning natures, our collective conscious, sensing that it’s evolutionarily advantageous for us to all make a contract, individual to individual, outside and beyond the reach of our governments, to be good to one another and not do harm? To eliminate money and feed all of our people and heal them? To let people’s love for one another and desire for community and respect fuel our labor, instead of the desire to best one another and have more things than one another?

Who in a civilized country has not felt or denied responsibility for their comfort being built upon the backs of millions of exploited people? How many of us would not prefer to live in a world where such atrocities don’t happen?

Only psychopaths. Only people with a solipsistic worldview in which everyone else’s experience is relevant only insofar as it impacts their own. These are the people exploiting and manipulating the rest of us. Far from suggesting that we tar and feather them, I’d offer that this sort of illness and misdirection of energy deserves compassion and a certain amount of indulgence (which ends where hurting others begins.)

The only kind human behavior we need address at all (for the libertarians out there) is harmful antisocial tendencies. Tendencies like consistently prioritizing personal concerns over communal concerns. Like trying to cheat and rob others rather than contribute to a community. Like manipulating the trustful and exploiting those in need. And it’s to their own benefit to break those habits. Manipulating and coercing others, apart from destroying interpersonal relationships and communities (and therefore eroding the human fabric) cannot possibly lead to peace of mind. Dishonest and imbalanced relationships are destructive of both parties involved.

This change is completely within reach. We’re more alike than our ruling classes would have us believe. The religious right just wants to live in peace and be allowed to exercise and share their beliefs. The far left just wants to live in peace and be allowed to exercise their right to make bad decisions along with good ones. We all just want to live in peace.

Trust it. The people you think you have nothing in common with are humans. They don’t like being hungry, they don’t like being attacked, they don’t like being made to feel small. They like doing what they want to do when they want to do it, they like feeling respected and useful in their communities, they like being allowed to be themselves without attracting contempt, anger, or ridicule. As different as we are, as different as our individual goals are, all of us are seeking, in some way or another, peace of mind.

What could help us attain it faster than peace on earth? You claim to want that? Put your money where your mouth is and join the peaceful revolution.

Me and Jesus

Internet, I realized something cray-cray a couple of days ago. My current working ontology (which basically holds that all life on earth is fueled by the same sentience, so what you do to others, you ultimately suffer as well) is pretty compatible with Mormon beliefs on one level.

I mean, they believe that on this one night, this one man (out of everyone that lived, ever) suffered for everyone’s sins, experienced literally everything that happened to everybody on this planet on behalf of the rest of us.

First of all, this is essentially the same thing, if you think about it. If Jesus shared every single secret shame, sin, guilt, experience, etc., he might as well have been us.

Second, why would it be just for someone to pay for the sins of others? No way. That doesn’t make any sense. Unless…he IS us.

Say God is, indeed, some mind-blowingly complex being that our puny minds couldn’t hope to comprehend. Okay. Now say that Jesus is, indeed, his son in human form, only he has some advanced understanding of what this life is all about which allows him to perform miracles, help his people take another step forward in empathy and community, come back from the dead, and take on the sins of everybody.

Remember the story of Adam and Eve? How Eve was a piece of Adam that was taken out of him? What if all of humankind is increasingly splintered pieces of Adam? What if we’re all God The Incomprehensible Sentience’s child, singular? Mormons also believe that humans are on this planet to learn the patience, compassion, humility, and self-control necessary to wield unlimited power. What if this planet is a school of sorts for just one complex sentience?

So Jesus was basically our final exam, which could have come at any point in time because time is an illusion. We pass, we win. But that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and do what we feel like, because any pain inflicted on anyone anywhere is misery that we have to experience personally, when our pieces come together again into a single being.

Why not believe that, right? That everyone you encounter is some piece of your vast, powerful self, and you don’t need to fear any of them and you should absolutely try and understand and help them? Because if they are happy, you are happy. In the grand scheme of things. It’s taking the golden rule to a whole new level.

I’m not really invested in a Christian-based ontology, but the bad trip I had on molly in New York actually made me realize how invested I am in my former belief systems being wrong. I was so repulsed with the thought of falling back in that trap that I didn’t even want to acknowledge it has its good sides.

I’m finally reaching the point of viewing my former self non-judgmentally, examining with an impassive eye the things I once believed, allowing myself to remember the emotions that drew me in without fear of being caught again in the whirlpool of circular logic. As I knew, deep down, there was plenty I was missing out on being so reactionary and dismissive about Christian beliefs. My angle on the world has been shifting again, insisting on routine reexamination and recalibration.

I think I’m going to quit the dungeon. It’s been a good time but it’s shit or get off the pot and I’m back to square one: I just want to write my ass off for as long as I can, and this is just another distraction, another excuse not to give it my all. I’m done with excuses.

In addition to this blog, my goal is three chapters of my young adult novel per week. If I complete this, I’ll have a draft of about three hundred pages by the end of February. If I can finish it faster, I intend to. I’m done dicking around.