January 26, 2007

Only Problem With People

Been doing a lot of thinking about how to “fix” myself (as in correct, not immobilize) and have reached the conclusion that the only problem with me is the same as the only problem with all people; namely: that the time at which I undertake any action or react to any stimulus is the present, and the present is burdened by having the conscious self in it. Repeated “arguments” with various friends and girlfriends to the tune of “I suck / you don’t have to feel that way / now you’re telling me I’m wrong about that too” – that’s me in the middle voice – have convinced me that the conscious self is too much ITSELF to be persuaded or comforted by things that are not itself. Giving up the self seems worse than resenting it, to the self, since the only alternative is the void of non-self, to which none but the completely broken willingly submits. This is why nobody takes advice; advice is at best, potentially, a virus that regenerates within the self after being forcibly injected. But most selves have better immune systems than to allow that. Otherwise, one can either try to coax another’s self into doing something – which generally requires greater facility with it than either party will ever have – or simply wait for a random mutation in the right direction and then apply the environmental pressures that select for it.

But as I say, this is all a problem only at the point in time that is the present – the addict can plan to quit or regret failing to quit with full clarity because these take place external to the conscious self, the read-head of consciousness that is always present at the current point in time and no other.

Generally, people would do just what they ought to do if only they weren’t themselves. That is, their personalities are such that they would no doubt agree with you about what they ought to do. Of course, they might not at first approach, because their sense of self is so expansive that it will ooze along the timeline all the way to the time at which the issue is being discussed. In trying to change myself I have done the preliminary work of pruning and pruning this expanded sense of self until it exists only at the infinitesimal point in time that is the present. At least as regards the undesirable traits. The idea then, as with the addict, is to somehow stamp it out once it has been reduced to a point. But once holed up in an impenetrable temporal pinpoint of consciousness it is exceedingly resilient. Cockroach-like.

Seems to me this is the only real problem with people. Evil/immorality – and ignorance and whatever else you might throw at people – are just shortcomings inherent to the natural of the creature. It makes perfect sense that people would be a little moral, a little immoral, a little curious, a little incurious. Look around; it all makes sense and isn’t a problem once you know the rules. It can make trouble, sure, but I don’t feel my philosophical self banging and banging away at it with a shoe – it needs to be lived with and so can be. This self-protective infinitesimal non-entity that is the self, though, is a problem. Can’t live without it, obviously. But it’s a downright wrench in the works.

I have been convinced – by parties other than the self, no less! – that it does me no good to consider an audience, when I write here. It just slows me up and ruins everything I have to say. I think I have successfully written this one without consideration for you. Quickly, too, for a change. Gonna try to keep that up. Insufficiently like-minded comments, therefore, may have to be disregarded. Until I get a little more sturdy. Sorry. You’re still invited to respond as you wish but I may just move on rather than take you seriously, if it feels like that will be erosive to what I’m trying to cultivate internally here. I think I’ve put myself through a fair amount of erosion over the past year of doing this. That no doubt accounts for the drastically lower post volume. Let’s try again.


  1. If you feel like you need to create a new website without giving anyone the URL, we your public will understand. At least those of us who do not depend on you for contact with America.

    Posted by Adam on |
  2. Considered it, but that would defeat the whole purpose of facing the music. You just keep on playing that music. Working on earwax.

    Posted by broomlet on |
  3. I’m the one who depends on this for contact with America, yes? Don’t keep this going for my benefit. You (both Adam and Broomlet) could always just send me personal e-mails instead, which would actually be more pleasing, I suppose.

    If you weren’t a drinking man, Broomlet dear, I’d say you’ve been drinking. ‘Cause you sound like me after 8 shots of vodka. Well, your grammar is better, but I sympathize with the ideas.

    Oh, and, personally, I believe that people have the ability to change whatever they want about themselves, if they really want to. The problem is that, deep down, they don’t really want to change. That’s why I haven’t quit smoking and why you keep on doing whatever it is that makes you occasionally think you’re supposed to hate yourself for.

    Posted by Mary on |
  4. My point here is that what you’re calling “deep down” actually means “in the exact moment of the present.” Maybe that’s the essence of the difference between “really” wanting to change and not – but I don’t think that the self, the present-tense perceiving consciousness thing, is necessarily the only “real” part of a person. It’s just the part that eludes our direct control, because in any given present we ARE ourselves and thus can’t do anything ABOUT ourselves, externally.

    Sartre sounds even drunker than this and he was famous.

    Posted by broomlet on |
  5. No, no, you have it in reverse. “Deep down,” is the more permanent sense of self. As much as I admire, in a purely abstract/moral-Judeo-Christian way, your unwillingness to sample the nectar of the Gods, I also think it puts you in a disadvantage towards understanding your fellow man. Even your precious Proust enjoyed a nice drink. Hell, he enjoyed it a lot. And my point is that these moments allow us to recognize what we SHOULD do, but then in sobriety, we go back to what we DO do. Maybe you think that a chemical substance isn’t capable of revealing truth, but I actually do believe it can. Alcohol just lowers inhibitions—“in vino veritas,” right?

    Anyway, it’s in sober times that we are capable of changing ourselves. This is not just a delusion. A conscientious human can do whatever he wants. Why do you believe a person can’t do anything about him/her-self externally? Well, I can never be 5 feet tall, and I can never be an Inuit Indian, sure. But regarding behavior, I can be anything I want. An extrovert, introvert, alcoholic, tee-totaller, homosexual, heterosexual slut, fundamentalist Baptist, Orthodox Jew, suicidal Muslim, whatever. Aren’t these just behavioral choices? Nature notwithstanding—people challenge and destroy their natural inclinations everyday. Why couldn’t I be any of these things if I really wanted to be them?

    Posted by Mary on |
  6. I think that you’ve nailed the “insufficiently like-minded comment” pretty much on the head. Is this a test?

    I was gonna say “I resolve to pass” and leave this unanswered, but that felt very dismissive indeed, so here I am responding at length. Hm.

    1. I don’t have anything against alcohol, which my post says absolutely nothing about, so your comment is a glaring case of doth protest too much.

    2. You seem to be misunderstanding my use of “externally.” I didn’t mean “changing one’s own external appearance and behavior” but rather “changing oneself from an external vantage point; dividing oneself into two parts, an observer and an object of observation, and having the observer make changes on the object.”

    3. If, as you say, when drunk one sees what one SHOULD do, which you call “truth,” why do you also say that the desire NOT to change is “the more permanent sense of self”? One is “true” but the other is “deep down”? You are trying to give these two impulses – the one to change oneself and the one to just be oneself – respectability rankings, where one has priority over the other, but you’re contradicting yourself as to which has priority. Actually, knowing you, I think you believe that the types of priority are distinct – that the self is specifically not respectable, that it is an object that has a particular moral character, just as other objects have shapes and colors, and that this moral character might well place it in essential conflict with the objective truth, just as the devil is is essential conflict with goodness. But again, your example of alcohol belies this model – alcohol “just lowers inhibitions” yet also ends that essential conflict, temporarily. This inviolable “deep down” self is primarily made of “inhibitions?” That doesn’t sound so deep down after all. You’re mixing a moralist model with a Freudian one, but they’re not consistent with one another.

    In my post I’m also talking about the opposition between “what we SHOULD do” and “what we DO do,” but I’m not talking about priority – moral or personal – I’m talking about the natural domains of each in terms of past/future vs. present, and, by extension, in terms of the unreflective self vs. the “external,” self-observing self.

    This for everyone: I like when people want to have conversations about the subjects I’m writing about, but it’s problematic for me when they’re couched in terms of dismissing what I wrote. Despite what you may think you know of me, I am not rarin’ for a fight here, I’m just getting my thoughts down, and it’s still hard for me when the response is, more or less, that I really shouldn’t have had those thoughts. If you think I’m mistaken, explain my mistake. Don’t just point out that what I said is ridiculous and dare me to explain my ridiculous point of view – that’s exactly what I already did!

    I guess I just happen to know (and be related to) naturally contentious people. Well, I will try to be less contentious in my comments on all of YOUR blogs.

    No, no, no, honestly, just bring it on as it occurs to you and I will continue to try to find the healthy way of reacting. That’s just part of the overall challenge for me, here.

    I just don’t like the idea of ever having to ignore you guys! There must be a middle way.

    Posted by broomlet on |
  7. Sorry. I take that back. I know that nobody has ever come close telling me I “shouldn’t have had those thoughts.” If I’m misunderstood or not understood that’s my own responsibility. It just feels like that responsibility, when I take it seriously, overshadows and kills any other motivation I have to write. So it’s frustrating to me when I continue to be reminded of that responsibility in the form of people not understanding me. It make me feel like, “why can’t you meet me halfway?” But I guess that’s about where people are already meeting me.

    Beth just told me to stop myself.

    Posted by broomlet on |

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