Philosophy

Trade your heroes for ghosts

sp

I didn’t really have any heroes growing up as a kid. Fictional or otherwise.

Even as a small child the concept seemed silly to me. What was a hero? what criteria needed to be met in order to become one? Does a hero have to be a real person? It confused me.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I started recognising certain people as personal ‘heroes’, although I still hate the term – ‘hero’ for some reason just reminds me of cereal (no idea why) and those little chocolates.

Heroes are good because they give you something to aspire to, even if you know you cannot possibly equal them in measure, you can at least try to follow their words and actions so you can emulate them in an effort to become a better person. I completely skipped the whole ‘better person’ part and started to use my heroes as a way of exerting my own false sense of superiority:

“Oh you mean you’ve never heard of Famous Person’s treatise on Derp? You really should look it up!”

whilst inside in my head I would be chastising them for being so stupid:

“Hah, only a moron doesn’t know of the existence of that. Idiot. SMUG MODE ACTIVATE”

I used the knowledge I acquired from my heroes to reinforce my view that I was smarter than everyone else and that in a dispute I was always right. I used my heroes for villainous purposes, now it feels like all I have are ghosts of those heroes. I butchered them and twisted their virtuous natures into my own mangled psyche and used their wisdom against other people to convince myself I was superior.

I’m going to stop doing that now.

I realise a lot more about human nature than I did a year ago, hell even six months ago. I keep having mini epiphanies that I am certain are course correcting me onto a path of mental well-being and compassion towards others, the problem however is following through on these epiphanies. For better or worse I am still plagued by the Procrastination Monster and I wish I could have an epiphany about that but it’s not happened yet.

It’s very, VERY difficult to describe procrastination when you are a depressed person versus regular old “Oh I’m such a procrastinator LOL I’ll do it this afternoon” type people. It is not the same beast. You are held prisoner by your own mind as it successfully convinces you that inaction is the safest course to take, as it cannot possibly result in more heartache. Now I KNOW that this is stupid. I know that getting up and about and doing things, taking initiative at work, and generally learning new things makes me feel good. I know this to be true and yet I continue to do it. Why? Because, that’s why. I have no better explanation than that. It’s an entirely fucked up situation to be in and I am yet to find a solution.

I want this to stop, but it seems it’s another aspect of my mental state that I’m just gonna have to wait on to catch up. I feel like I’m getting better in some ways and worse in others. I want to break out of this mental prison with the force of a hurricane, not bit by bit in incremental steps that could take years to fully come to fruition. I’d rather have a walk on part in the war, than a lead role in a cage.

f.

p.s I realise there are too many Pink Floyd references in this post but:

sloth

Wisdom GET!

WISDOM

This actually made me stop and go “Wooooooah” because I’ve never looked at it from this perspective before.That happens with more frequency these days, sometimes that’s a good thing sometimes that’s a bad thing.

Today it was a good thing I’d like to tell you about.

Ok so in a nutshell here’s one of my myriad of problems: I compare myself to everyone else and come to the conclusion that everyone (literally everyone I pass or interact with on a day to day basis) is doing better than me and that I am hopelessly lost in this world of confusion and despair. It propagates my apathy because I convince myself that I’ll never get any better, at anything, and will sink into mediocrity and nobody will come to my funeral and blah blah blah.

Right well, on reddit today in a random thread someone else expressed this sentiment albeit in a more diluted and less nihilistic way. The question of the thread was thus:

“What do you know to be unequivocally true and yet you still refuse to accept it?”

A simple question, fairly easy to answer. The answer I saw was something along the lines of:

“That no one cares about what I do as much as I do. I stress so much about how people view me and it I really shouldn’t.”

Now that’s me, although I heap on layers of self loathing and misery on top of that basic notion. However the response to that sentiment completely threw me off guard and somewhere inside the quagmire of my mind a shiny penny dropped into some magic hole that has left a lasting impression on me (I hope). This was the response to that worry:

“The problem is that you are comparing your behind the scenes footage to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

And BOOM! epiphany! I actually cracked a smile at this ridiculously simple and obvious observation. Every time I see someone do something that I think I can never do, every time I see someone succeed at something no matter how trivial, every time I feel bad about myself because the person I’m viewing is clearly above me, I am only getting a slight glimpse into one person’s life. I’m seeing one event that for all I know could be the only decent thing to happen to that person in months. I’m comparing my entire existence with just one of their transient moments in time. This has taken root in my mind and *I hope* it’s something I can use in the future when those familiar feelings start to run through my mind.

Thanks random reddit user. You have given me a useful tool to try and combat these irrational and damaging thoughts I have on a daily basis. I just hope I can make effective use of this tool.

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Be cool like Carl, and keep your hands off my science

My suit is made of SCIENCE

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest people who ever lived. Like ever. Seriously.

Not only was he a badass scientist (astrophysics, cosmology, astronomy etc) and science populariser, he was also a cannabis advocate and all around CHILL DUDE. He currently holds the world record for cheesiest yet sincere grin:

"Tee hee, science!"“I fucking LOVE science dawg”

In 1980 two great things happened. One, I was born and two, Carl Sagan started broadcasting his show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage on television. Cosmos was a thirteen part science based documentary show, chronicling science’s greatest achievements throughout the existence of the human race. Even though it’s over thirty years old it is still well worth watching today, not just for the science but also for Sagan himself. His amazingly calm and dreamy voice makes learning seem like pure pleasure and his empathy for all living things was something to be admired. He did so much for science that I can’t even begin to scratch the surface so you should go and at least read his wiki page, I guarantee that you’ll like what you read.

Carl Sagan died in 1996 and the world lost one of the greatest defenders of truth it has ever known. However just as the memory of Carl lives on today, so does his show Cosmos in a reboot of sorts being presented by one of today’s leading science populariser guys, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

ndgtThis guy. His head is just a bit smaller than Jupiter.

So far there have been three episodes of the new Cosmos that have aired, I’ve seen the first two and NDT does a brilliant job of carrying on Sagan’s legacy. You can tell he is just as excited about spreading knowledge and science as Carl was, and he pays homage to his mentor in a most respectful and touching manner in the first episode.

It’s a great programme and something that is badly needed these days; a science show about science and nothing else. But of course, you start to talk about Evolution and then BAM – the crazies come out of the woodwork:

Creationists want equal airtime on Cosmos

That’s right folks we cannot have a science based show that is just about pure science without those loveable bunch The Creationists throwing their extremely uneducated and tiresome opinions and objections into the mix. They want Cosmos to talk about the non theory that is Intelligent Design and how Creationism is a legitimate subject that should be taught as a science to children. This is idiotic. This is like watching Battlestar Galactica and complaining that there are not enough cowboys in it. It’s like listening to classical music and moaning that there is no dubstep style drop in the middle of the track.

You do no get to complain about this, fundamentalist religious people. You have entire channels, no scratch that, entire NETWORKS dedicated to god bothering. You would laugh in the face of anyone who demanded that you give Evolution equal time on one of your “Praise Jesus by giving us all your money” shows now would you?

Leave the science to the scientists and push your own silly agendas on your extremely well financed cable TV channels. Cosmos is about Science, not your false mythos. Evolution is not ‘just a theory’ and if you still cling to that belief then get a dictionary and actually look up what the term ‘theory’ means in a scientific context. The theory of Evolution is FACT, not a hypothesis. There are thousands of pieces of evidence and thousands of peer reviewed studies that prove it and refute Creationism at every turn.

Please, I know I’m not a massive fan or religion and a lot of what I say is hyperbole but I want nothing more than to accept religion as something that certain people do and get some good out of. It may not be my cup of tea but if it influences your life and the lives of those you care about in a positive manner, great – that is a good thing and you can believe whatever you want. However if your beliefs are dangerous, if you spread lies and misinformation and hatred and bigotry, you make it very hard for me to tolerate you.

jesus_and_the_dinosaursThis never happened

Cosmos is currently broadcasting on Sunday nights on FOX in the states and on Sky1 here in the UK. I highly recommend you watch it. In the meantime here is a cool little music video that features both Carl Sagan and NDT as well as a host of other important scientists (Feynman, Nye and more!).

Enjoy The Symphony Of Science – We Are All Connected (and it’s true, we are).

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Sonder and Stardust

Sonder is a relatively new concept. In short, it’s the realisation that everyone around you has their own stream of consciousness, their own complex thought patterns, their own dreams & fears. Look here’s a pretentious, artsy GIF that gets the message across better than I can:

sonder

So basically when you walk past someone in the street and you see them staring into space and you think “I wonder what’s going on there…” That’s sonder. A strange term but one I like and one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s part of my new and fragile ethos of ‘choose how you react to things better’. Instead of getting pissed off and angry at the guy who rushes past you in the train station and knocks you out of the way, consider that they might be in a hurry for something that is very important to them. Maybe they are running to catch a connecting bus to go to the hospital to visit their dying father, or maybe they are late for a meeting with an old friend they haven’t seen for years. Point is, you’ll never know exactly why. They could just be an inconsiderate asshole who pushes people out of the way because ‘they’ are more important, but you’ll never truly know, so why spend time and energy getting bothered by it?

I should stress that this is really something I haven’t even considered until quite recently. Of course it was right for me to get pissed off at these kinds of GRIEVOUS OFFENCES AGAINST MY PERSON! Of course it is they who are the asshole! I never really saw it from any other perspective, so I’m trying to change that.

So when I see lone people on the street, I wonder what they are thinking. Sometimes when I walk past them it feels like our beta waves synchronise and I can read their thoughts. I can tell if someone is happy, sad, contemplative, worried, anxious, angry. Not all of the time, but sometimes.

Sonder lets me be that person, if only for a nanosecond. I don’t mean I become them, that’s dumb, but on some level I feel like a connection is made to another sentient creature whether we like it or not. Perhaps we are all just a floating consciousness and our physical bodies are nothing more than a projection our minds give us to make us feel more comfortable.

Anyway my point is that sonder is something that allows me to regard other humans as more than just ‘the dick that pushed me down as he ran through the station’ and suchlike. Our shared consciousness is the only thing that really makes us who we are. We are not our physical bodies, it’s just meat and organs and blood. Our minds are not tangible things that you can see or touch, and yet they are still very real.

Which brings me to the other thing. It’s all made of stardust. Everything.

I just had my second therapy session where we started to do some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tailored for me. Despite my initial resistance to CBT I am willing to give it another shot, plus the therapist is quite good at explaining how it can be very different for different people and doesn’t seem to be bullshitting me. Part of the first steps in my CBT is to identify what some of my core beliefs are. She had inferred several already from our sessions together and one of the things she put down was nihilism. For those who are not aware Nihilism is a doctrine, most famously adopted by Friedrich Nietzsche, which posits that life – that is, human life and all life on earth (possibly the universe) –  is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Now I DO believe this, but not in the way you may think.

I consider myself an armchair progressive nihilist. Life doesn’t have a purpose, there is no crazy god that demands your worship, and there is no real meaning to it all. But that’s the whole point, you make of life what you see fit. The point of life is to come up with a point and that is not a bad thing, it’s actually quite beautiful if you stop to think about it. We and literally everything around us are all composed of elementary particles created in the heart of a star. We are here by virtue of an ancient cosmic explosion that allowed the heavier elements to form out of the fusion of hydrogen and helium which provides the nuclear fuel for all the stars you see in the night sky. We are random collections of energy and matter and the fact that we are here at all to comment on that is incredible, is it not?

We don’t need a meaning to life, we don’t need a big all-encompassing reason to be. We are here and we are conscious and we can observe and influence our environment. There doesn’t need to be a point and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people covet money and some people want fame. Some people wish to eat only of the earth and not from the bodies of animals. Some people want to play music and some people want to play football. Some people take drugs and some people don’t. It is enough that we have those options available to us, we do not need arbitrary reasons for it all. We are at the behest of the cosmic giggle and we will continue to be long after our physical manifestations wither & die and the protons & neutrons that make up the atoms in our bodies become recycled into a tree, or a rock, or a flagpole on a far away alien planet.

We are all made of stars, and that’s totally fine. If that makes me a nihilist then I will wear that badge with pride.

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p.s. Here is some music that I associate with sonder because it’s beautiful, just like the concept. Thank You Space Expert: