DAY 38

Hello everyone,

 

I walk in the office. I sit in my chair. I turn the computer on. The start up sound cues like the internal beat of my headache. The electrically generated light causes me to close my eyes to shade myself. A brief respite.

I open my Excel folder document titled School List.xls. I’m on day 38 on this project. Line 935 is where I stopped yesterday. Line 936 is Claremont High School. The memory brings a fleeting smile to my face. I went there. Something I can cling to in the ocean of boredom. And then I’m on to the next line. Clarence Elementary.

It’s a boring job, but someone has to do it, at least that’s what my boss told me. My eyes glaze over and my mind removes its activities to drift through the agony of sitting in the chair. My eyelids droop. I glance up at the clock. 11:15. Still 45 minutes till lunch. I hear the door slam closed from the room over. I cringe. Why did they install such heavy doors? I guess it helps keep people from falling asleep. An attractive girl comes in.

“Hi are you Denis?” she asks. She’s so happy. And young. She must be a student. The make-up, the smiles, the uncertainty. How naïve.

“Yes, how can I help you?” I try to put on a friendly demeanor that makes me look about half as tired as I feel. I raise my eyebrows a bit to help keep my eyes open. She looks at me a little weird. I’m guessing my face probably looks something like the pasty white rug in my bathroom. With matching worn ridges from being constantly stepped on.

“I was just asked to bring this to you.” She hands me a manila folder. It’s practically empty.

“Ok” I say, glancing at the name of the sender. It says Alfred. “Thank you,” giving her the signal that her job is completed and she can slink back to whichever hellhole sent her.

“No problem” she say with a smile, and backs out of the room with an awkward few steps before turning around and picking up her pace. Am I really that scary? Probably not. Probably more that I am so pathetic it seems creepy. Why did I even smile at her?

The letter has a lot of verbiage, boring clutter that the high ups of the college use to flaunt their doctorates. Pretentious assholes. The last two sentences read “we expected you to finish your work by last Friday. If it’s not in our mailbox by 5 today, you will be fired.” Good. Jesus. Better fired than another day at this job.

Rent is due though. I need this job. The thin line on my lips draws back as I take a deep breath. How could I possibly finish this project on time while these elitists keep lounging about? It’s ironic how their excessive degrees and preaching about how hard work they work doesn’t actually add up to a responsible character in practice. I exhale. It’s only 11:23.

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TEACHING CONFIDENCE

Hello everyone,

 

I’m guessing most people go through school, which means to some extent everyone has had interactions with teachers. Which means they know how authority works to some extent. There’s a push-pull to it, like with everything else. Sure, in college it’s well and good to have a friendly professor, and it is always nice to have someone to talk to on equal terms. In college, there’s a lot more room for equality between students and teachers because everyone is an adult. Still, some amount of dominance exists on the part of the teacher.

Take it back a few year, to high school, and suddenly things are much less equal. There are probably a couple teachers who treat students equally and are human with them. Most are probably as close to fair in terms of treatment and grades. But not all of them. Some people are just assholes. That’s unavoidable though—there are jerks in every social arena. Go even further back though. Middle school is often one of the hardest places for students to develop self-esteem not only because they are constantly being judged by their peers, but they also are too little to be taken extremely seriously by adults.

Most middle school kids are at the age where their mind has developed enough to recognize aspects of the world in a mature fashion, and even be able to comment on it critically to some extent. Unfortunately, they have not all developed enough to control themselves and act “maturely” in all social dynamics. This means a lot more name calling and acting out during class. I recall my own life in middle school, where I was a quiet outsider. I would watch kids laugh loudly at others, be self-centered, and not respect rules. Some of them were just as unruly and degenerate as that sounds. But many of them were not actually these kinds of people. They were smart individuals—and if you took the time to get to know them, they were actually quite nice people.

Of course, in class, if a student acts out they are disruptive and a general “bad” person. At least in the eyes of many teachers and certainly most administrators. Dial back a few more years to elementary school, where students only partially understand the rules. Or rather, they understand the rules, but only have enough self restraint to adhere to them part of the time. The disruptive ones get labeled immediately as “problem” children. Which is depressing, because they rarely actually are “problems” and rather do not have the cognitive understanding to control themselves fully. But many teachers punish this harshly, rather than find an outlet for it. By punishing students, the teachers create a dynamic in which the student feels like a failure—much like with grades. This categorization of students leads to repetitive expectations, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The question then arises, how do you deal with a “disruptive” student at this young of an age group and still teach material? My favorite plan was one that my third grade teacher gave me as an option. I used to have a bit of trouble keeping myself still as a kid, though I don’t recall ever acting out. My teacher’s solution for this was to give me the option to run out to the playground, hit the tetherballs, and come back. No supervision, no warning, just “whenever you feel anxious or unable to keep yourself still, go ahead and do this.” That gave me power as a little kid. I could get up and leave! It was simple. It was reassuring. And most of all, it made me feel like a real person. So many students get lost as people because they are so busy being students. And its easier to let them fall behind as people to get the job done. But it is more meaningful to society as a whole if we take the time to remind people that they are not less of a person because they have a different biological make-up than “normal” students.

HOW TO REACH MARS

Hello everyone,

 

Another day, another dollar. Or rather, dollars, since a single dollar doesn’t really buy anything anymore. Yesterday, I had a friend recommend that I listen to the Bon Iver album “Bon Iver.” It was quite lovely. In fact, I describe it as “inhaling on a cool sunny morning in a meadow just after a light rain.” Which is a pretty specific feeling. It’s also really interesting, since it is just a group of sounds coming together. There’s no storm, no rainfall, and certainly none of the warm sunlight. Yet somehow I can so clearly picture that specific scene.

Which brings me to one of my more ethereal topics, which is imagination. Imagination is a powerful tool and a dangerous weakness. It’s amazing in the sense that it allows us to find the path to achieve something that otherwise seemed impossible. Without imagination, we never reach Mars. Without imagination, we never forge the sword. Without imagination, we never rise above our expected potential. It takes imagination to lay the framework for any good plan. Even something as mundane as a supermarket initially took the imagination of someone to provide food for everyone all in one place.

The fatal flaw of imagination though is that it is also our own damnation. Imagination is what makes us afraid of the dark. It’s what incites us to do unthinkable damage, and feel depths of hatred against groups we have never spoken to. Seriously. It’s a great scare tactic. Trump uses it all the time, and I have no doubt that our imagination played a role in the invasion of Iraq.

I have no idea how imagination works though. I’m not a scientist or psychologist. What I do know is that it is something we use in our conscious lives—but we also sort of use it when we are asleep, right? I mean, isn’t dreaming just basically the unrestricted and unmonitored use of our imagination during our sleep? I like to think of imagination as the melding point between our unconscious minds and our conscious ones. It’s like pouring blue and red paint down two different sides of a bowl. The purple part at the very center is where the magic happens that makes things purple, and the rest of it is on either side of consciousness, uncombined. It’s where the gut feelings come from, or that sudden, perfect idea develops out of. Because your conscious mind is very literal. It deals with what’s in front of you, or the problem at hand. It can work out the best way to do something, and maybe picturing the concept is hinging on the outside of imagination, but embracing imagination allows for a connection beyond just the mental.

To bring this full circle, I like to think of things like music as catalysts. They awaken our senses and activate our subconscious to think in new ways. And the best part is that they aren’t always productive ways to think. They just make us think. No worries. No stress. No finishing that last task. Just deep breaths and good vibes.

GO OUTSIDE

Hello everyone,

 

I feel like not enough people go outside. I mean I know I don’t go outside enough, despite the fact that I’m writing this in the meadow during my lunch break. Seriously, we get cooped up inside our living spaces that we forget that there’s a beautiful world right outside our doors. Sure, some people live in the industrial bedrocks of society, and if they go outside they are lucky to see trees at all, but most of use have access to parks and what not. Yet we still stay inside. Why is that?

My first hypothesis for why people stay inside is because it feels safe. We are innately programed for survival. It makes sense that we would want to stay safe by hiding inside something that is, essentially, impenetrable to dangerous animals. It also secures us with clean(er) air. I live in the L.A. area, which is known for being mediocre in terms of air quality. Certainly there have been strides forward, but we still have quite a ways to go before we are actually healthy.

Still, I would think that, with the lack of vitamin D absorbed from the sunlight, people would venture outside more. Not enough people go on walks anymore. I was out on a run yesterday, in the unexpected rain that we California’s have no idea how to cope with, and I saw an older couple walking with their dog. They were just chatting, bundled up appropriately for the weather, and enjoying their free time together. Why don’t more people do that? I think it’s because we have become anti-social with our segregated housing. We are pressured to be independent beings, which pressures us to have individual houses with individual rooms. Sure, privacy is important, but if we justify locking ourselves away with that, then we end up accepting our hideaways as a social norm. That’s not good.

Isolation leads to depression. Which is, simply put, bad. Our brains are wired for social interactions—we like to work together. But we have tricked ourselves into being separated. Which is simple and understandable when we live in a world that rewards us for our individuality. Maybe it’s just a romantic concept, but I think we should be excited to go out and talk to people. It’s an opportunity to make new, valuable connections. Which is ironic, since I often seclude myself due to my stringent requirements in life. I have no doubt it is harder to do in practice. I know the group I am currently next to, who have been chatting non stop about “girls” and “being that guy,” are a bit intimidating. They get along so well, and I am just awkward. Yet it is important to be willing to rise up and face these challenges. And it starts with going outside.

So take a walk, read in a park, take a nap on a bench. Eat outside at a restaurant. There’s a beautiful world at your fingertips. And even if it isn’t right in front of you, you can go find it. Or better yet, you can make it.

HONESTY BEGETS ADMIRATION

Hello everyone,

 

Happy Monday! Ok, not so happy Monday, but hey, you’re reading this, that means that you probably survived it. Or are taking a break from work. Or maybe you’re “working.” Whatever it is, I appreciate you reading this. That being said, it probably is in your best interest to put this on hold and get back to work, if you are reading this at work. It’s dishonest to claim to be working while you are lounging (ironic, since I am writing this at work). Which brings me to my discussion topic for today: Honesty.

Honesty is something that we often put aside in order to succeed, or sometimes just to avoid blame. As we grow older, we are prone to lie less about small things like breaking a cup or stealing candy. Seriously, I have little brothers, they used to lie a lot more than they do now, even though they still lie a lot. It isn’t their fault though. They are afraid that if they tell the truth there will be some horribly punishment. Louis C.K. (really Cassady? Another Louis reference?) has made a perfect analysis of this, which I have put below:


But really, we lie because we need to get something. It’s a natural reaction. Which I think is something that a lot of people don’t understand. They like to contort lying with inhumanity, when it’s the opposite. People lie. People cheat. People steal. Of course, this does not justify their offenses or leave then unaccountable, but it does mean that some amount of lying is to be expected.

Which brings me to honesty. Why do we value honesty so much? Seriously, it is one of the golden standards of being a human being. Be honest. It’s something we are told time and time again. I think it’s another lower brain/upper brain battle that is on going. I think honesty is something that isn’t intrinsic to people, but we have nurtured people to do the morally correct thing for so long that it has produce guilt, and become a natural thing to do. At the very least it is a harder thing to do—and it is the more noble thing to do. Sometimes, however, some people try to lie about being honest.

One of my favorite examples of this is during a presidential debate, or during a public address by a politician. Apparently, a black coat with a white shirt underneath and a red tie somehow triggers the idea of honesty in our minds. So almost every candidate will wear these colors—it’s why they all look the same. Candidates do this to get votes—and can we really blame them? If we are that susceptible, then it is in their best interest to do so. Especially since candidates have to lie so often to succeed. Since lying is the bedrock of politics, why do we elect the candidates we do? The reality is that lying is often centered around a truth. For Hillary, it’s that she’s trying to do the best thing for the average person life without too strongly affecting the successful. For Trump, it’s that he doesn’t want to see America turn into a country that cares about its majorities first when the Big Businesses will be hurt. For Cruz, it’s that he wants to keep America as a bible thumpin’ country. For Sanders? Well, he honestly wants to see people not suffer. Which is admirable. And that’s why he’s such an outsider—because he is respectable. Honesty begets admiration.

THE LAKE

Hello everyone,

 

The deep, grainy gray of the water was impenetrable. He couldn’t see through it. Even his own reflection was lost in the waters. It was so corrupting that even the suns hews seemed to dim. And it was still. Not still like the silence of an empty room, or the long abandoned trees of the forest. It was still like a panther tracking its prey. Waiting for the right moment. Of course, the boy never noticed this. He was too busy looking for sticks to satisfy his curiosity.

What was below the thick layers? How deep could it be? The lake was big, but not enormous. Maybe 50 feet in diameter? He wasn’t a very good judge of distance. It couldn’t be more than a few feet deep…could it? He finally found what he’d been looking for: a wiry stick, thin and elastic like the antenna of his dad’s Chevrolet. It swayed back and forth as he toddled back to the banks, stepping through the once green reeds, dulled to resemble the water they no doubt fed off of.

He kicked off his shoes and bunched his socks up inside to keep them dry, despite their brown stains from his adventures that day. The bank was cold. And muddy. Not the pleasant kind of mud that he played with at home. It felt like a sticky wet sandpaper, with rocks finding their way between his toes as he walked. Each step toward the water was accompanied by a gross SCHLOP sound. He looked back at the water, tantalized by it’s mystery. He paused. What if there were monsters? His eyes grew wide and he stopped in his tracks. He heard his dad’s voice, though there was nobody around for miles. You’ll be fine. He glanced around. The sun was hanging low, on it’s way home from another day at work. He wondered what it was like when the sun got home? Was he always on edge? His dad used to always be on edge. His face would scrunch up like a he’d stepped on a tack at the littlest sound that was out of place. A cup knocking over. A book closing too hard. The pitter-patter of his older brother trying to sneak back into the house like nobody had heard him. We always heard him.

He felt the water pour over his feet as he stepped in the lake. It was deceptively smooth compared to the mud he had just trudged through. The ripples from his feet water broke the silence of the waters for a moment. It looked like the strings of his uncle’s harp when he played with them. Back and forth and back and forth. He put his stick out, unintentionally breaking the water a few times as it swayed up and down with his momentum. He held it above the water until it was still. Then he touched the tip down, making a perfect circle diffuse outwards. He smiled. He stuck the stick in deeper, fishing around for whatever he could. He pulled the stick out, wide eyed in anticipation. Nothing. He tried again. There was some resistance this time. Monsters.

He froze for a moment. Then slowly he pulled back on the stick. It looked like a serpent, smooth and silent. Then on the end of the stick was his fear. A little plastic grocery bag. It probably used to be white. The water pouring out of it broke the silence. He pulled the bag off, tearing it on the knobby parts of the stick. Why was it there?

 

 

Happy Earth day everyone! Make sure you are cleaning up after yourselves!

WHEN TO ACCEPT GENDER ROLES

Hello everyone,

 

So where do we go from here? I just spent several days going over all the flaws with gendered society, both on the side of women and men. I think, in reality, it is only troubling to consider these faults because they can impact so many people on such a large scale. Men have high suicide rates. Women have high rates of sexual assault. It’s really dangerous. At the same time though, it’s also really important that we are gendered to an extent.

Think about it. Think about the people you find attractive. What makes them attractive? Is it that they are intellectuals? Is it that they have a good physical form? Are they all men? Women? Are they the same gender as you? The vast majority of people would answer that they were the opposite gender that they were. How do you know they are the opposite gender? Is it just that one has a higher muscle density, or that someone else has breasts? Who ever it is that you are thinking of (or looking at), they are probably clothed. You can’t see their genitalia. Yet it is extremely easy to tell by looking at a person if they are male or female.

Likewise, the romantic male-female dynamic that exists in contemporary society plays towards “the ideal man” and “the ideal woman.” Is this really a bad thing? I mean we have discussed how bad it is for the psyche of many people, but is it really bad to have a gold standard? I certainly know that I personally would prefer that the woman I end up with was thin, short, and stereotypically beautiful. So at what point is this preference about being equal in comparison to being ideal? Should we flirt equally with people we find less attractive, simply because they might be more intelligent? Should we flirt with the beautiful people less because we want to focus on who someone is as a person, rather than what their outward appearance is? Why do so many men watch pornography then? Why do so many women fantasize over sex objects like Tom Cruise, Chris Evans, or Adam Levine?

At what point should we abandon our upper brain activities in favor of our lower brain ones? The lower brain has existed for quite a bit longer, so if you believe in evolution, the lower brain probably is more precise and attuned to what an ideal mate is, where as the upper brain is still continuing to develop.

It’s interesting. After postulating about how we shouldn’t give in to the lower brain pathos categorization of people based on innate qualities that some people are lucky enough to have, it’s still a romantic notion to think of a rugged man taking down a terrifying beast in order to save a beautiful princess. That quick analogy doesn’t even say that they get married or have sex, but you probably had imagined the rest of the classic stories from just that much information.

I think that, in closing, while we often should just go with our gut feelings, because they are so much more attuned to the wavelengths of nature, it is also important to think freely to make sure that the gut feeling is also the morally acceptable feeling. It’s easy to have the gut feeling “I want to have sex with that person.” It’s hard to have the mind that can say “Even though I want to have sex with that person, I need to pause and consider how my desires are affecting their life.”

A HANDFUL OF HEROES

Hello everyone,

 

Welcome back once again. Our next two topics for the masculine gender roles in society are the males need to be isolated and hard working. These two subjects constantly go hand in hand, as a man often is forced to isolate himself in order to work hard. Even when in a group, the idea of being the hardest worker is a goal that most men aim for. In doing this, they create a dynamic in which each person is individually pushing themselves to work harder than their peers. In some ways this is good, in the sense that the competition can lead to increased productivity, and in turn often can lead to advancements (say, in medical research). In many cases though, this can also lead to a burn out.

Think of something like a librarian sorting books. Yes, they may find it fun, and even to an extent interesting. For a while they may make a game out of the book titles in order to pass the time more easily, or even create a game out of stacking the books in order to make the process less about the sorting and more about actively placing the books somewhere. At the end of the day, however, the librarian has to take a breath and focus seriously, because games like this only last so long. In especially long processes, like sorting 50,000 books, the monotony of this task will outlast the competitive edge that impresses on the mind. Thus, with men that are hard working, a burn out period comes. It is the point in which they can no longer take work—the boiling point at which they finally have an outburst of emotion. This happens because, like everyone else, men are human. It is how a mind responds to chronic strains.

The coupling of hard work and isolation leads to similar strains on the mind that being unemotional does. With the isolation comes a lack of support for the man’s mental health. A comparison is that women, unlike men, are typically known for having “girl friends” that they share intimate secrets with. Sharing secrets provides an outlet for stressors, much like a schedule helps reduce the juggling that a person’s brain has to do in life without one. The weight that this can add to a man’s life is not easily calculated, and is much more latent in the psyche than, say, objectification of women. This is because it is hard to quantify. We can tell from countless ads that women are being marginalized. There is nothing prevalent in the media about the weight men put on their shoulders, and when it is briefly brought up, it is always as a theme in some television show or film. The heroic man works alone against a corrupt establishment, sacrificing his body and his mind in order to do the greater good. It’s heroic. Except heroes are exalted in history as a chosen few—a handful of people pulled from a bucket of a trillion beings. It is impossible for everyone to overcome these odds. Most people will fail. The extent to which they fall is the closest quantifiable measurement we have.

WALKING ON BROKEN LEGS

Hello everyone,
I’m still at war with some sort of illness, but here we are! Today we are going to talk about two more aspects that males are pressured to move towards in modern American society. These are specifically the requirement to be sexually aggressive and unemotional. Men are told to be sexually aggressive subtly through things like television and various ads, in which they are depicted as the active member in a relationship—the whole 90/10 idea when people kiss, the pressure to succeed with every partner (and multiple partners at the same time); all of these frame who we are as human beings. The problem is that, by promoting the sexually aggressive male, we have unwittingly produced a culture of rape. Of course the man that raped a girl in this society is going to blame that girl—he’s been told to take advantage of women for ages. That does not make this rape acceptable, or anywhere near reasonable, but it still makes sense.

In a movie, a male sees the guy that he is supposed to emulate or identify with slap a girl on the ass playfully. She turns, scowls at him, but twenty minutes later after a few drinks they end up having sex—all because he was aggressive enough to get her attention. What kind of standard is that to hold men to? “If you want to get laid, you must belittle a woman.” Then when a guy tries this in real life, it doesn’t work. And of course, we are told that movies are not real and to separate this from reality, but we are also told that tuition free colleges are completely impossible, when many countries already have it in place. Sometimes separating reality from fantasy just is not doable.

Of course, this is no excuse for the men that go too far, but the reality is that to help men stop going too far is to change the rhetoric at a base level. A huge part of this is getting men to express themselves in more than just “blah blah blah sex blah blah blah horny blah blah blah” and so on. Men lack the outlet that women do. Men don’t cry. Seriously. They are told not to so often. Which sucks. Men do not have the same outlets women do for personal problems. Girl starts crying, no big deal. She’s just being emotional. Guy starts crying, he’s weak, he’s incompetent, and a poor worker. We have to change what people think. Certainly, the acceptance of women crying has changed how we think about them in a bad way, but there is a reason men have significantly higher suicide rates. They are required not to express themselves. It’s hard to be the breadwinner, super strong, and completely unemotional. What does a guy do when he fails? Just suck it up and keep going? Any person can only get knocked down so many times before they are too broken to get up anymore.

SICK DAYS ARE NOT ALLOWED

Hello everyone,

 

We are once again back from the weekend. I had an all right weekend, but unfortunately I have been sick. I was so sick that I had to take the day off today, which really is no fun. Fortunately, everyone in my life is understanding and did not make a huge deal out of it. Which is not always a common aspect for men. Men in society are often expected to be leaders. I’m sure it goes back to ancient mentality, where the men of the tribes were the hunters, and the alpha male was the leader of everyone. Today, our common gender roles for men are strong, dominant, sexually aggressive, unemotional, isolated, and hard working. Last week I talked about how women were pretty much the strict opposite of this, at least in terms of their roles in society, as well as some of the negative impacts these roles create on a woman in society. This week, I’ll be discussing the roles of men.

Today I would like to talk about how men are expected to be strong and dominant. The strength part is much like how women are expected to be physically appealing. Men aren’t held to the same precise body type and structure that women are held to—they don’t all have to be hyper thin, pale skinned, fit but not ripped people. They just have to be strong. Obviously the “ideal” man is still displayed as a man with big, well-cut arms, and a highly toned set of abs. But it really does not matter as much if they are black or white. It does not really matter if they are cut hard, or if they simply have that deep muscle strength (the kind that is not really visible unless displayed). But when you are a guy and you are not strong, in some ways it is even worse than a woman that isn’t pretty. A guy that is weak is not just physically unfortunate (we tell a lot of women that if they are not pretty enough, at least they can work). A weak man is incapable in all regards. It affects his work life—even if his work has no physical requirements. He could be an accountant at a law firm that literally sits at his desk typing all day. And if his physical prowess is not up to par, he would be looked down upon.

This goes hand in hand with the male expectation for dominance. Really men are dominant. They tell people what to do. I get a weird MMA vibe from this role, which kind of just expects a guy to hold down his enemy until he passes out. It is gross, and in many ways it is the root for all of the other problems men face. But if a man is not dominant, it is a crime like none other. It really holds over from the honor system, where gentlemen were expected to walk with an air of self-certainty. If a man was not dominant, his enemies would attack him at every point in time. Now, if a man is not dominant, he is seen as being a pansy, or an overall loser. Think of a stereotypical nerd. Thin, tiny, and squawking. He’s no ideal being. That’s the fear all men have to avoid being associated with.