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Thursday
Nov162017

Farewell, Shai

Shai (in brown), at my 21st Birthday Party, 2007.Shai, you know what? I don’t know if you’re up there in heaven. You might be up in the orbiting VALIS. Chances are you’re stone dead. Even then, I'm not sure. Honest to God, I don’t. When your service concluded on Sunday, I half expected you to creep out from behind a headstone, shout “Ha! Fooled you!” and go into fits of laughter, as only you could. You never half laughed. It was all or nothing with you.

When I told friends and family about you, they didn’t believe you were even real. I mean, what kind Jew is smart enough to convince a neo-Nazi to date him? “I confirmed all her suspicions,” he said once. “We ran out of money and I said, ‘It’s OK, I’ll just give the bank teller my Jew Number and he’ll give me all the cash I want.” I think being so absurd was your specialty. Like Phil Dick said, "the only appropriate response to reality is to go insane." You took that to heart, I think.

You were the only bloke who made me feel like a complete fucking moron sometimes. I wish I told you this more often, but when I start a list of great thinkers; Hitchens, Dawkins, Feynman – I’d whisper “Marom” somewhere towards the top. You had a towering intellect, a boundless imagination. Who else wrote a complete theory on reality in their spare time? No one that I know. No one that anyone knows.

Even then, you never ever talked down to anyone. When I was struggling in maths (which you called “math”) you took time out of your day to help me, going to the State Library with me. I didn’t know this then, but I do know now – you were struggling with Crohn’s disease. My God, if I only knew.

When I’d heard you’d moved to Brisbane – Russell Island, or “Dole Island” – it was another one of your social experiments. Thinking about stuff never quite cut it for you. You had to experience, observe, explore. The more complicated, the better. I thought it my duty to cut across the highway, two or so hours to get there, just to have an hour-long conversation. I would have done it again in a heartbeat.

Now you’re gone. Even though in your own quantum entangled reality, you might not be. You could be both, neither, all at the same time. You’ve outsmarted me, even in death. You son of a bitch. I could not have felt more honoured to be your friend Shai. Rest easy.

In Memoriam - Shai Yassi Marom (October 11, 1986 - December 9, 2017)

 

Tuesday
Jul172012

21st Century Facebookless Man

It's been a year. One productive, fruitful and prosperous year since I deactivated my Facebook account. I told everyone once I'd done it I wouldn't relapse once; and thankfully haven't. I kept my solemn vow never to use it ever again.

Have I missed out on anything? No. What have I gained? Quite a bit.

Once it was gone, I didn’t miss it. I broke the habit of checking it and fussing over every minute detail rather swiftly. Once the apps were removed and bookmarks purged, there was no yearning to open them up. The only times I wished I’d had it were to enter “Like this page” competitions where a prize was otherwise unobtainable in the marketplace (like signed moon rocks by a dead rock star, or something.) Even then, it’s not as ubiquitous nor an essential a tool as people would like to think.

Only a handful of times over the past year have people told me to “Check my Facebook” for a link or some other piece of trivia they insisted I just had to see. At no instance was it ever a requisite for keeping on top of events or other issues that I deemed important. In fact, it just made me work harder and smarter about what events I would attend and with whom. It increases the efficacy of your “social memory” – your ability to recall details about your friends beyond the superficial, past what they simply “like.” Labelling something usually libels it as Neil Postman would say; I’m sure people simply dismiss me as “Metal Tom” and pay no more mind to my “largeness” that contains multitudes. (I’m guilty of the same with other acquaintances, I’m sure.)

I’ve sent links to friends about Bukowski, new astronomical discoveries and octo-necked guitars via email or text message (or even called them and met up with them! Quelle horreur!) because I’ve actually remembered conversations in which they’ve mentioned such interests. Schopenhauer said to train the mind you must build its power of unaided recall; with no basis with which to “reference” what your friends like trains it well.

I tended to focus more on my enjoyment of events – I wasn’t one of those arseholes at gigs clicking photos of the band instead of actually watching the fucking band play. For example, I went to see Goatwhore and Impiety a couple of weeks ago. To my dismay, the room was awash with deep electric blue light glowing from smartphones. They were posting up-to-the-minute dispatches to Facebook about events transpiring before them, despite never actually experiencing the present fully.

Getting rid of Facebook in my experience strengthened my commitment to personal development. One aspect of this journey which requires much patience and effort is my tendency to seek approval from others and attach myself to a desired outcome. Killing Facebook (and the occasional Twitter moratorium) greatly aids the attainment of such a goal. You begin to enjoy activities and work for oneself, instead of grovelling for “likes” or pats on the head. Likewise, you tend not to conceal failures, either. It really does lend meaning to the aphorism “a good deed is its own reward.” An inward honesty is also projected outward. It builds trust and rapport with people. Likewise, you can start to feel when things are amiss; your internal “bullshit detection” apparatus activates and heightens with each day.

Bullshit detection also applies to self-reflexion and self-perception. Burying feelings and emotions almost never have any upsides. Letting them out and focusing on the root causes without bullshitting yourself maintains a mental wellbeing and working toward Dr. Ellis’ USA – Unconditional Self-Acceptance. Likewise, you tend not to settle for second best, especially in terms of relationships. Your boundaries are much more defined and active instead of passively “hiding” (read: avoiding) someone you find undesirable. A very dear friend of mine had to be cauterized out of my life as his friendship was simply too toxic and untrustworthy to hold on to. I felt much sadness and anger as a result, but it had to be done. It simply followed from the self-belief that I deserve better treatment. 

The value I place on interpersonal communication is higher. As my birthday rolled around last year, I received a handful of well-wished from friends and family. They received no electronic pats on the back for it; they did it out of kindness and genuine affection. Lengthy emails and Skype chats with friends from overseas seems to dismiss those lengthy distances in the way a few photos pushed out on a news feed every so often never could.

Over the last year it’s as if I’ve discovered killing Facebook was like my “gateway anti-drug” to personal development and lasting, strong friendships. People hum and haw at getting rid of it, as if they’ll be swallowed up into a social abyss; but nothing could be further from the truth. Your excuses are simply that. If it isn’t fun anymore then why persist? Besides, who doesn’t want liberation?

Friday
Jul222011

Killing the Facebook - A Welcome Disconnection

On Thursday night, I made a pre-meditated, well-planned and spontaneous decision to deactivate my Facebook. Ignoring it wasn't enough. I wanted it dead.

When one decides to shut down Facebook, the cybernetic entity controlling its blue and white projection tries to guilt you into staying. It feebly attempts to convince you its privacy violations are ingenuous, the premise behind it is half-way useful and even resorts to emotional blackmail, insistent that certain real life friends will miss your cyberpresence. Despite the electronic pleading and bureaucracy it entangles you in (are you really, truly sure? Enter your Tax File Number and mother's father's aunt's maiden name to continue.) I pulled the plug.

Let me tell you, what a relief.

The last year and a half, I've experienced overwhelming, world-view shifting changes. Some are physical - I feel stronger and fitter. Others are mental - I know more that I did last year. A lot of them are intangible, yet bound up with my very being. Facebook does a disservice to our being. It labels it, it regulates it and alters our perception of it. It's not a window into our being. It's a map of it that's barely accurate at the best of times.

Prior to the advent of social media and my own return from the brink of oblivion, I almost wished I could use some kind of benign platform to convince myself that my friends were routinely ignoring me or were acting like sinister villains behind my back. My mind with paranoia's snakes coiled tight around it was convinced - convinced! - that these smiles masked a cruel intent.

Maybe they did. More rationally and overall, likely, they most probably didn't. Sure, by the time I'd reached the end of my tether with this colloquial monstrosity, I'd noticed a pattern had emerged when I'd made a post. Only about 10 or 15 "friends" seemed even remotely interested in what I'd had to say. Sure, I'd made some new contacts along the way but I'd also made some "indifferents." I was "hidden" from view by everyone else - or so it seemed.

But then I figured that my fatigue with Facebook stemmed from viewing an overabundance of useless and intellectually void information about people I barely knew. Yet, the otherness lay in myself: I made little to no effort to get to know the people - the real people behind the "book" obscuring their "faces" - and at that instant, there was clarity as I emerged from beyond the murk: I was out of integrity with my use of Facebook. It was all bullshit, man.

The last year I've made many lasting friendships. Brotherhoods indissoluble, loves everlasting. But they weren't made over Facebook. They were forged as sunlight beat down on our faces, as tears streaked down our cheeks, as frost billowed through the cadence of our breaths. Friends are made and re-made over cheap meals and cheaper laughs in second-rate cafes. Facebook, the great concealer of real, open and visceral humanity didn't let seeds of camaraderie take root and flourish; it kept them in stasis until someone decided to let it expire.

So I got rid of it. I was bullshitting myself if I chose to keep my interactive dossier of half-truths up and running. I'm not even remotely concerned that it's a great "tool" for promoting my journalism work or services as a consultant. I get enough rejection e-mails from editors and managers in my good old fashioned email inbox, thank you very much.

My once enthusiastic adoration for Twitter has all but evaporated too. The only "social medium" (although that's a contestable term) I'm rather enjoying is Tumblr - it's like running one's own pop-culture museum. There's a certain joy in stealing from others' small collections and discoveries to curate in one's own permanent exhibition. It's superficial, that's a given. But it's artifice does not purport to foster "friendships" in the physical sense. Online community, yes. "A place for your friends," not so much.

Will I miss it? I'm not suffering from any measure of withdrawal. But like the aims of my (numerous) social media moratoriums, the payoff is in rising to challenge of relying on it no longer. If I want to know what's going on with my social circles, I'll have to talk to someone and engage in a real conversation to find out. If I'm forgotten by fair-weather friends, then so what? I know who my brothers and sisters are on this magnificent journey. I'll love and support them as long as I'm able. In kind, they will support me, too.

So I give praise to Facebook precisely as I bury it (with the cumulative personal information I've fed it over the years clutched firmly in its cold, dead hands.) You've opened my eyes to see where my real friends truly are.

Friday
Mar122010

Humanity to Man

In one respect man is the nearest thing to me, so far as I must do good to men and endure them. But so far as some men make themselves obstacles to my proper acts, man becomes to me one of the things which are indifferent, no less than the sun or wind or a wild beast. Now it is true that these may impede my action, but they are no impediments to my affects and disposition, which have the power of acting conditionally and changing: for the mind converts and changes every hindrance to its activity into an aid; and so that which is a hindrance is made a furtherance to an act; and that which is an obstacle on the road helps us on this road.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5.20

Over the past few days, I've seen the minds of others turn to anguish and despair due to the actions of significant others. In their estimation, the action of the other - dumping them, hurting them, acting out against them - signifies an attack on their character, that they are no longer worthy of others' acceptance or love. On the contrary, their lovability and capacity to accept such love has not diminished in any way or form; they more or less are as they were prior to these events transpiring.

So why the inevitable turn to self-loathing and victimization when these relationships fail, even if it is of no to little fault of their own? Where is the rule that dictates this rigorous mental self-flagellation must occur? It may stem from a false-to-fact belief that their significant other is the only arbiter of romantic love and care for them and that this love must be given at all times otherwise the world is cruel, spiteful and out to get them.

In reality, save for the few who have only had one relationship prior (and have little experience of breaking up, conflict, etc.) the granting of love and care is ultimately a choice that is entered into mutually with varying degrees of intensity across both (or even multiple) parties. Rationally, if the choice is not beneficial to either or both parties, then another choice can be made as to repair or discontinue the relationship. It is also a choice to further the relationship by exchanging gifts, taking holidays together, moving in and marrying etc. This choice may be "obvious" and seen not even as a choice at all despite the perceived undesirable yet still viable alternatives (staying in one's own house, for example) that are available to either party.

Like any human with human rationality and agency, the choices we make are our own responsibility. It would be unfair to blame another for the choices that we make, even if they are reached by consensus in a romantic (or even platonic) relationship. Just because you were chosen by another as significant does not mean they afford you special dispensation when this significance is later withdrawn for whatever reason. One must always take care of himself within or without a relationship - how could one have functioned prior to the relationship forming with this belief? It was never and never will be the responsibility of someone else to take care of a rational, functional, adult human being. It would be rational to remember that your significant other was once an indifferent; it is not inconceivable to think that one day they may return to that role once again.

Tuesday
Feb162010

Strategies for Unsanity

In my dreaming last night, I saw more literal signals than symbolic, i.e, conversations in their entirety without adulteration by my unconscious mind (which would have to be taken with a grain of suspicion anyhow!)

A friend of mine called me out of the blue - he wanted something from me and I figured as much since I had never received a social call from him before. We got to talking and he hit upon his recent feelings about being depressed. I had noticed after much self-reflection that his depression was not innate or a priori, but learned and reinforced throughout his life.

If we maintain that the Structural Differential holds true-to-fact, then language shapes thought and thus behavior. So at which point can we define the fundamental causes of undesirable or depressive feelings being generated? In my opinion, identification at the evaluation level and its confusion with the event level effects on our feelings with greatest impact.

My friend would say (i.e., utter and most likely subvocalize) that his pursuits both for his work and pleasure were nothing to be commended; that they were "adequate" at best. He would mostly downplay his achievements and enforce irrational restrictions on his well-being.

The maps he had internalized in the past now bear claim to appearing as "reality", using broad and vulgar terms. Despite his activities being "neutral", he identifies them as good or bad by holding them up to unattainable comparisons (i.e., his writings are not read by millions, therefore it is a failure or inherently bad) or believing them as so instead of evaluating them as they are in their environment, or liking/loving them unconditionally as an extension of himself. He continually struggles to feel happy by placing demands on the universe when realizing it is neither benign or malignant but indifferent to his needs.

If you wish to feel inadequate or worthless, I recommend you start or continue to do the following:

  • Need rather than want, or have second-order needs: i.e, "I need my need for love."
  • Misidentifying others' problems for your own.
  • Reversing the order of abstraction by mistaking your evaluations of reality for reality itself.
  • By thinking either too negatively or positively in absolute terms.
  • By tying your well-being to external events and external evaluations (i.e., verbal praise)
  • By using outdated maps (i.e., past situations) to navigate present territories.
  • By merely hypothesizing and never testing situations to gain the facts.
  • By thinking the universe owes you something for services rendered or intentions pure.

I do not claim to be a psychologist; I do however claim to be a student of General Semantics. By using the GS approach, much of his needless self-imposed suffering could be avoided and effectively remedied.