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Posts Tagged ‘roles’

What is the one thing a society needs to maintain a sense of honor?  Innocence. If you can distinguish naivete and innocence then you can be “as innocent as a dove but as sharp as a serpent.” Also I wish to account for, “where there are many rules, virtue will be lacking.” This is the core of what I’m advocating, what I’m trying to discover. As you can see, my thoughts are far along, but have a few holes in them. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on what I’m overlooking.

Lately I have applied for several jobs and I have been in the enviable position of having many potential employers wanting to hire me.  One of them, the one I eventually signed a contract with, wanted to screw over my headhunter and not pay her fees by claiming to hire another candidate while I claimed to work at another location.

I didn’t do this, for a few reasons.  Chiefly, the headhunter has been helping me for YEARS and if someone treats me very well, I like to treat them well in return.  Partly this is pragmatism, I might want to deal with her again later (she DID get me loads of solid leads).  Additionally, this affects the nature of my relationship with my employer — are we starting off entering into a conspiracy to cheat someone?  I’m not claiming that’s a bad thing a priori, but lets call a spade a spade.  But really, the whole decision came down to my wanting to pay this headhunter for her services rendered.

Now I’ve gotten another offer that might be a better one.   I might actually ditch the employer with whom I’ve already signed a contract, but who hasn’t filled out enough paperwork to make it a big headache (for me) to switch jobs.  Furthermore, I’ve entered into this contract, knowing the exit clauses, assuming I’ll probably leave early, but not disclosing this information.  At least one of my friends thinks my cavalier attitude towards agreements with employers is unethical.  However, I can’t see anything wrong with this.

This got me thinking, when we define something as an evil or bad thing, what do we mean?  I have a working model of kinds of transgressions.  I divide them into two categories:  Bodily transgressions such as assault, murder, rape, physical harm through negligence (a tricky one), poisoning, etc…   Social transgressions such as breech of agreement, deception, omission, meanness, playing legal hardball, refusing to do business with specific people, etc.  The former are things that cause, either directly or through strongly causal indirect means, bodily harm to another.  The latter are breeches of society’s rules, written or unwritten, and are almost always violations of people’s expectations.

Now, in the case of bodily transgressions, I think most humans have agreed on extreme ones being wrong outside of specific circumstances.  It’s generally considered wrong to shoot someone unless they’re shooting at me or my friend.  Social transgressions vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture.  In some marketplaces, caveat emptor rules and everyone expects you to try and benefit from information advantage (aka “dupe someone”).  Going into the game knowing this, there is really no problem in this environment (as long as the discount on price in this market equals or exceeds my costs from wrong estimates of value or quality, then it’s fine for me to shop there).  At the other extreme, some social groups consider it a serious social breech if you enter into a simple argument that hurts someone’s feelings.  Most societies frown on nakedness outside of specific circumstances, or adjusting one’s breasts or penis in public in an obvious way.  Some social groups would stop reading this because I said “breasts” and “penis.”

There is a big middle ground in all of this.  Bodily harm through negligence is often difficult to determine, and we’ll usually distinguish between innocent and accidental negligence (a genuine accident on the operating table, or during an emergency rescue) and vicious negligence (leaving a child in a locked car in 101 degree heat as a punishment).  What’s more interesting to me is the problem of social transgressions.

Beyond the two categories I already stated, we can divide actions into honorable/innocent and dishonorable/naive actions.  Innocent and honorable bodily harm actions are generally considered completely okay.  Improvised emergency response in backcountry situations gives us occasional examples of this, where the best action known, given available equipment, skills, and conditions, still results in someone’s injury or death.  Also, most people will understand if I hit someone with a baseball bat who is in the process of trying to stab me and steal my Nikes.  Indeed, in these cases, the actions stem from honorable and/or innocent intentions AND no SOCIAL breech has occurred. However, we may judge them in complex ways.  Why did I possess a baseball bat? What could I have done differently to save my wounded comrade? Legal consequences may ensue regardless of ones actual intentions and behaviors. I’ll talk about that later.

I am starting to think social breeches often trump bodily breeches. Also, I think they are usually judged in a very clear-cut way. The person who honestly didn’t know he was in a social group where everyone is expected to be super nice to each other doesn’t get a pass if he starts an argument with someone, even if his intention was genuinely compassionate calling someone out on some of their bull$#!! such as an addiction or other harmful behavior. He is likely to be judged as a jerk and never invited to the party again. We find extreme examples of the most honorable and innocent actions being punished by society in our great spiritual leaders from Jesus to Socrates.

I think this is because Social breeches are actually sins against the fabric of society.  Society itself (through its social contracts and leaders who execute them) claims the right to transgress people’s bodies. The examples above, Jesus and Socrates, invoke society’s claim to this right to harm. Society also claims this right by imprisoning people or drafting them, and in some places by physical punishments such as caning, torture, and harsh prison conditions. American society, among others, also claims the specific right to harm people through direct and intentional negligence, as food and medicine are not considered “rights” but rather privileges.

My own moral life seems to be evolving more to pay attention to my own compass of honorable and innocent, and less to social norms. Now this may seem trite, but to say I am ignoring societal norms actually implies that I’m ignoring and often violating what most people would consider “right” and “wrong” or at the very least “offensive.” But culture and subculture is often broken. I personally find it repulsive to let someone starve or suffer from lack of medical care simply because they cannot find enough payed work or inherited money to buy it. I also find it repulsive to try to create an insular group to hypnotize each other into thinking highly of ourselves regardless of merit. I find I have little investment or care for things like other people’s feelings or expectations. So, while I remain a compassionate individual, I don’t bother to pull any punches, cup anyone’s bollocks, or pat anyone on the bum (unless I believe it will actually help them in the long run).

Nor do I bother about the social contracts such as whether a specific arena is caveat emptor, or supposed to play by gentleman’s rules, or we’re all putting (or pretending to put) all our cards on the table. I can trade based on personal reputation, so that matters to me, but all these social and societal concerns are purely utilitarian.

I assume little and choose actions based on expediency relative to my own intentions. I strive to keep these intentions honorable. I treat my three employees well, but we’re pirating and cannibalizing some old designs, no longer patented, in a market where people are playing by some Euro-specific “gentleman’s rules” and creating artificial market inefficiencies. Some might say I’m harming the particular culture, I say I’m evolving it.

Laws are a strange part of all this. It seems in many cases they are kind of farce, where the intention behind them takes second place and the unintended consequences are high. The war on drugs hasn’t kept a lot of my personal friends from getting addicted to soul-stealing chemicals like meth, yet I have seen it ruin a few people’s lives over less harmful drugs like marijuana. Further, dealing with immigration rules has taught me that social intentions underlying laws can be damned, I’m going to write what I need to in this paperwork to get what I want, so long as its either legal enough or legally illegible enough to spare me any consequences. I’ve never stayed a day illegally in Taiwan, yet I’ve circumvented the intentions of a lot of regulations, as have almost all the foreign teachers here.

My ultimate intentions of goodness reside only in my own sense of honor. I find my conscience is cleaner lately, yet I have an almost cavalier practicality and flagrant disregard about social rules, norms, and expectations along with other people’s feelings. I think I offend more people, yet I rest easier at night. I calculate more decisions based on advantages and disadvantages, and I feel less need to run over them again and again in my head to decide if what I did was morally right or wrong somehow.

I can point to timeless virtues, which withstand the eternal reality of change and evolution.  Such virtues include patience, equanimity, innocence, compassion.  I can also point to very real vices. The virtues and vices I can come up with are highly personal in nature, and don’t point to any specific rules or social norms per se.  For example, addiction, impatience, lust, greed and envy don’t point to any specific social norms that could stand for all time. Murder does, along with the other extreme examples of bodily violation, but that’s about it.  Almost everything else seems entirely situational.

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A wonderful observation was made by Venkat Rao. People desire for things around them to be “legible.” He was quoting someone else, but he’s brought a lot of people’s attention to the concept. In this context, Legibility refers to how easy it is to understand the purpose and the meaning of a thing, not just a text, but anything.

On the very legible end of things is something like an office chair, or a cup of coffee.  These are designed by humans, completely contrived for the types of purposes that anyone can plainly gather from their adaptation to these intentions.  On the far side of illegibility is the pattern of plants in a forest.  Not to say that it’s random, but without an extremely specialized understanding, the patterning, the whys, the meaning of it is indecipherable.  The only other way to access a complicated image like a forest or a city is to simply experience the gestalt of it, the sense of it as you are there, in the moment.

Rao gives us examples of problems that arise when we humans try and impose legibility. His easiest example is the growth of a city.  Old cities have grown in such a complex pattern over decades, centuries, even millenia, and with such a collection of complex human interactions, that their patterning is as nuanced as the trees and ferns of the forest floor.  When planners come along and try to work out a method to set up a city artificially, it so often fails miserably because there is a forced legibility (indeed, it’s hard to imagine making policies about things without first rendering them legible, but for policymakers to grok the complexities necessary to understand things like city growth is more than most mere politicians can muster).

The important points here are that legibility is highest in man-made things and that people desire legibility.  In fact, Rao cites an interesting incident at a neurology clinic where a black and white checkerboard pattern is used to establish a “baseline” of someone’s brain activity, a “calm state.”  When the patient asked the doctor “shouldn’t you use something more neutral, white noise, perhaps?”  The doctor responds, “Oh no, people’s brains go wild when we show a random pattern, because they work hard to grasp at some underlying structure.”

Perhaps it is the fruit of Maharishi’s meditation on who am I? perhaps it is my vows, or just observation.  But recently I have found myself truly switching identity experiences rather easily.  After actual decades of wanting so much to be a woman, and an entire decade of being mostly submissive, I find myself being a true switch.  I can stop what we’re doing at home to force slap her ass, make sure she’s knowing she’s in submission, and leave her begging for more as we’re walking into town. Yes, I can still kiss a whip, scrub someone’s floor, and pine to get held down and fucked.  Honestly, I could beg God for either role just as sincerely, or forget the whole thing entirely.  All of it is surrender!

If you don’t build it deliberately, but let it form, like actions of nature, it isn’t going to have the same kind of legibility of an invention.  I smile this smile that old ladies and children seem to find irresistable.  I alternatively flush a bit from some men’s heat, and then wet some girl’s panties by our immediate mutual knowledge that I would chain her up alongside the others and perhaps horsewhip the living hell out of her in half a second.  And I gain trusting giggles and secret intimacies when I unwrap my Arab kuffiya and smile a blushing conspiratorial sister smile.  No one seems to try to cheat me anymore, in fact it seems they’re mostly quite generous with me.  My employees are artistic and seem satisfied.  I drive hard bargains with a shy voice.  My students mostly do what I say, alternatively seduced, in love, and afraid. My personality is a forest rather than a coffee cup, mysterious to even myself.

Then this all generalizes into other things.  I find myself more generous with money, and managing it all quite differently because I don’t even know what it is anymore.  It seems to have no value at all.  I don’t mean that in a naive sense, but in the sense that we’re all dying so quickly, what the fuck?  Perhaps I will find the capacity for even more generosity, or that great fabled freedom to just cast a fortune away in a moment, without a thought, and the power to create another kind or another kind or even a different kind than that….  How can I lack patience in this case?  How can I worry any sense of morality?  I tested this by lying outright a few times, and find the only thing I have that could be called a “conscience” is confusion brought on by blood sugar levels.

My friends seem to stumble with their reactions.  And I think it’s because I’ve become illegible.  So I do try and maintain some consistency around them lately, but it feels so stilted, and I notice that any real observer should be able to see through the plastic of contrivance. People want you to have an identity though, something to pin down and relate to with a known set of codes.  My girlfriend, fortunately, is blessed with enough innocence to just tell me when she doesn’t get what’s going on, and to roll with it.  She’s uncaring about social norms enough to either not notice or not care when I mix gender, dominance, social class signals, fashions, and actions with the kind of attitude that I would pack a backpack for a walk in the woods.  Toilet paper is good for so many things, I’ll bring a whole roll of that with me for even a day or two in the woods.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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I blindfolded myself for about a day.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but the sensory deprivation, the lack of visual stimuli to distract myself with simply put me against my own patterns after a few hours.

I can see some of the circles I was always aware of.  For example, I treat being transgendered like a kind of addiction, and I guess inasmuch as it can become an obsession, it resembles almost any other addiction.  However, every time I put it down, sometime thereafter I just notice, clearly, my own femininity, my own sense of being a woman blatently staring at me.  Then, when I try and embrace that identity, I find the trap that I cannot simply crossover into being that, either, so I find myself reaching for more, as that identity is comfortable, and then I’m back into the addiction part of it again. . . once I realize I’m acting like this, I let go again, the way I’d put down painkillers or booze, and eventually seem to repeat the cycle when I realize I’m not simply a man either.

I’m good at conditioning myself, and testing for what is conditioning and what is not.  I started this after a family at the church I grew up in, who had converted from Islam to Christianity, had converted back to Islam in a time of family crisis.  I realized then and there that 99% of religious sentiment must just be finding comfort in the familiar, like the way a wounded and dying soldier might cry out for his long gone mommy.

So I set about to simply condition every attachment to Christianity out of myself, so I could see if there was anything worthwhile left of it.  I stopped praying to Jesus in crises, and I stopped thinking about God.  I found after a couple of years that there wasn’t much of it left.  Nowadays I basically like what Jesus said about most everything the same way I like what other wonderful sages said, and I think Christians pretty much went awry by adopting Paul’s ideas.

So, in some ways I’ve done the same thing with gender.  Where I found conflict between masculinity and Femininity, I often conditioned out the masculinity, or, if I was feeling like an addict, like feeling transgendered was some unhealthy pressure inside of me, born of some kind of avoidance, I’d try to condition out femininity.  I’ve discovered that a large part of sexual orientation is alterable in this way….  but maybe I didn’t do it wholeheartedly enough with other aspects, because I keep finding a conflict inside.

To be honest, There’s an aspect of dealing with my lovers where I don’t trust them.  Thus far these have mostly been women, so mostly it comes up in relation to women, though I feel a touch of it in relation to men as well.  Basically I expect to be twisted, manipulated, and thrown away, as I don’t think anyone sees anything in me worth the courage and patience to build a significant connection with.

What else did I find whilst blindfolded?  Well, I have seen the desire to fit in and to conform set a huge burden on one of my close friends.  And last week I noticed it creating tightness and stiltedness in another of my good friends.  In my state of semi-sensory deprivation, I noticed it in myself.  It was odd to move towards the fridge, just to get a bottle of milk to put on my cereal and catch myself imagining how I look from outside, imagining someone else’s positive or negative judgments.  For god’s sake, this was in my apartment by myself!

Internal dialogue is mostly preceded by internal pictures.  Without these imaginations of others to compare to, there is also very little to set up as a dialogue.

After removing the blindfold, I noticed every brick in every building, I noticed every reflection off the windows, I saw the limits of my eyesight clearly, I even differentiated dirt on my glasses from blurry vision.  I walked outside and enjoyed everything I could see, the month of February being a beautiful one in Taiwan.  And I stopped while I was walking and focused on “who am I?”  Simply waited to see where *I* wish to go, what I thought right, regardless of the judgments of others.  I couldn’t find clarity in this.  I guess one of the hardest things is to trust myself.

Every moment has the promise of change in it, the promise of the infinite.  I’m terrified even as I speak the words out loud, “I’m ready to let go of this, I’m ready to let go of all the talking inside my mind and I’m ready to let go of the false identities I try and build.”  This time I didn’t say it to Ganesha, or to Kuan Yin, but simply to life itself.  And the feeling was immediately like a good break-up, where I feel a sense of loss of the familiar, but simultaneously a deep calm breath, a feeling of “rightness.”  Now, like any intention born of innocence, I only need to combine it with courage and patience, and it will surely come to pass.

Of course, as I say all this, I even have trouble trusting anyone who might read this to not judge me.  I set it up as a dialogue with some or another person inside my mind and so easily try to push away or else justify the simple clear intention..  innocence and intention can also feel vulnerable.  And of course, that’s what I fear the most with my lovers as well — vulnerability.

This isn’t easy for me.  In both cases an intention must be combined with both patience and courage.  Patience is not merely waiting.  Patience is harder when it isn’t like enduring one state, or even a predictable cycle of states, but allowing and embracing a constant flow of changes — this is where courage comes in.

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One thing I’ve been exploring lately is Myers-Briggs testing. In the past, I’ve found the tests assessment of my personality to be very accurate. I was looking at my profile and my weaknesses and I read through more of the profile types, etc.  I think I have a pretty good feel for the meaning of most of the types as well as a better feel for traits of my own.

What I found in reading through the strengths and weaknesses of each type was that having a personality type that is non-flexible is the root of much weakness (okay, duh). Moreover, I doubt the inherency of any personality trait. But, interestingly, I found a couple of the axis where I could easily go either way with a change that I knew how to make. For instance, in my functions for gathering information, I tend to trust symbols, personal meanings, and instinctual reactions a lot more than my five senses. That’s just been my natural “home base” for whatever reason.

So one simple thing to do is develop my ability to trust my five senses. And yes, in my experience, I’ve found grounding exercises like using Zhuan Zhang in Wujifa, or just being mindful have given me tremendous benefits.

Of course, the strengths of a person normally come from dominant traits. I observed a few years ago that in many cases, anyone that appears to be a genius in an area is highly unbalanced towards a trait or function. So the places where we’re “eccentric,” are often the places where we blow everyone else away. Or, a specific trait that is extraordinary to most people is so ordinary to us that we hardly think about it — the two side effects of this being that a) we can appear extraordinary or “genius” in that regard to others and b) we miss the ability to naturally or easily do what’s ordinary or “normal” for most people to do without thinking about it.

So we don’t want to neutralize our strengths in this process. It’s okay to have a “home base” but if we notice that our own easiest path is, in a particular case, not getting us anywhere, it’s really useful to be able to shift to another way of doing it.

The MBTI is relatively easy to work with. I think I have a really good grasp of it after only spending a few hours here and there of the last few years, as well as recently spending an afternoon and an evening reading through it. But the most useful part was in comparing how each variable shifted the whole, and changed the personality archetype significantly.  I spent a lot of time reading about the personality types that were just one change of one axis away from mine.

Knowing these little bits, and seeing where my chief weaknesses are, I can also narrow down to a few shifts I can make sometimes. Just like in Kung Fu, when someone smacks your head, you go to the highest level of training you have encoded outside of rational thought. In other words, you’re only going to use your favorite couple of moves/strategies in a fight. So it’s good to make them very streamlined and versatile.

Just my own strategies:

INFP — Shifting to ISFP when I’m failing to achieve a goal. By paying more attention to facts, data, details and concrete experience instead of symbolic interpretations, hunches, new ideas and “the big picture.”
— Shifting to INTP when I’m taking things a bit too personally and need some detachment. By thinking about hard truth and logic more than tact, compassion, people, and harmony.

I can almost boil both of those down to just a detached assessment of grounded information.

Of course, the only difficulty here would be my general “comfort” with my current personality. I mean, I genuinely do prefer to do the things that an INFP would do. I feel the personality test pegs me very well and I truly and authentically have the personality tendencies that it consistently tests in me.

One thing that helped me, in that regard, was just reading all the other types and noticing the methods other people use to engage in behaviors and preferences that I would greatly dislike. Funny, those preferences can seem so “obviously true,” even MORALLY true in a gut sense to me… yet there are people who have preferences different than my own, who feel a different set of obvious tastes.

One thing that shows up for me, for instance, and other INFPs is a problem with conflict. The conflicts show up because we genuinely want to achieve harmony with other people, yet genuinely have a deep seated sense of internally created values (separate from almost any social-group values).

I saw HOW people who take in more external stimulus to make decisions can enjoy the moment more while also being good at accomplishing their objectives (due to calibrating activities to serve their intention). And I saw HOW people who just think about things, weighing the data, instead of feeling out everything can avoid taking things personally and thus consistently choose honesty regardless of what other people think or if they feel offended.

Taken on a small level, and analyzed as a shift on those axis, I find the shifts less repulsive. In looking at the little pieces of how the behaviors I have trouble making within myself are actually achieved, I was able to find acceptable ways to get to them… the “how” of what some people are doing more easily than myself. That’s a lot of leverage to be had in overcoming habits and weaknesses!

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I have this habit, it’s a very bad one.  I’ve decided I need to face this since as long as the potential exists and I’m simply repressing myself, I haven’t actually dealt with the underlying issue.

Yesterday I was having around my family again and I got into an argument with my mom.  I truly felt she was being completely unreasonable about something and putting me into a very unpleasant bind.  However, the proper response would have been to ask for clarification, or to tell her that I felt she was presenting an impossible dilemma for me on something very important.

Instead I more or less reframed things in a way to place her in an impossible position, then she escalated the situation and I went for the jugular, saying things carefully as to leave her in tears, doubting her own self-worth (her particular weak spot).  I kept telling my dad to butt out, but his vocal observation at the time was that everything I said sounded fair.  Of course, I knew what I was doing.  Moreover, I intended it very cruelly at the time.  Later that evening, she left church early because she felt completely sickened and unable to practice piano.

My Qi Kung teacher pointed this out to me as well.  One time I and my Kung Fu schoolmates were out at a bar.  Some guy walked by and was an ass to me.  I said and did a couple of perfectly “harmless and reasonable” things and he nearly assaulted me.  My intention being that the other school mates would probably stop it from going too far and I would press charges against him, screwing up his employment, his relations with his family, taking money away from him etc, etc…  My Qi Kung teacher called me aside and essentially said, “I know what you’re doing, stop it.”

Further, and addressing the point of my writing about all this, my teacher was able to show me why I do this.  The basic feeling I have is that nothing I say matters much to anyone.  I don’t really feel like I have any social power, or social worth, and I don’t feel like anyone would really give a damn what I feel.  Usually in arguments I find people are pretty reluctant to show that they give a damn what the other person feels, so I tend to sense a lot of things that confirm my suspicion.  So when I become convinced that someone steps on me, I often form the intention to destroy them completely, or at least strike their weakest point as hard as I can, and proceed based on that.  My basic feeling is that anything less just won’t be noticed.

Interestingly enough, after the conversation about the guy in the bar, because of the way my teacher presented the situation to me, I harbored a lot of hatred towards my teacher.  I took it upon myself to actually damage the form of martial art that he had spent his life and love developing, to poison it subtly and carefully after he was gone.  I didn’t reveal this directly to him for awhile, but I have had a way of simultaneously holding all my good motivations and bad motivations inside my mind without feeling too bothered by the conflict.  All the time.

I’ve improved this in the last few years, taking what’s arguably an even colder approach and weighing out the advantages of destroying them or hurting them versus keeping them as an ally.  I know that sounds sick, but in a lot of cases, if I boil it down and don’t give myself any quarter for what appears to be self control, that’s what I’ve done.  So progress, I guess, was dropping the intention to hurt my teacher’s art and seeing learning it properly as more worth my time.

Regarding my mom, I stepped away, had some hot chocolate and read some law books for awhile.  As I was reading I was thinking that as long as there’s a potential for this to happen, then whatever the underlying cause is, I haven’t addressed it.  So I went back to my mom and asked her to give me a chance to listen to her and not try to take what she’s saying in the context of all the opinions I’ve formed about her throughout the years…  to try and listen with new ears.

Of course, she appreciated this, but ten times more important to me is that I felt like I shifted at least some of the potential for this to happen between us.  In other words, instead of merely repressing my deep-seated disdain for her and acting polite (which I could make a cost/benefit analysis for and probably maintain for years), I actually think I started getting past some of the crap we’ve built between us.

Beyond the specific issue with my mom, I often struggle to feel enough security in my worth to others regarding things I might need or want, like employment or someone caring for me, or even my friends caring what I have to say, to cease to be such a calculating reptile about it.  In social reality I still tend to use all my intellect, creativity, friendliness, and insight to try and prove worth to my friends, family and people I meet.  And I frequently don’t trust people to listen to me or care about me at all on the merit of my value as a person.  Though recently I’ve been fortunate to have some friends that have shown me they do care on those merits alone.

I’ve been around both my mom and my dad lately and noticed my patterns with them;  now I also see how I’ve developed symbiotic relationships with many of my friends and social groups to give me support based on the fact that they all basically like the persona with which I try and garner value.  I take little and very cold solace in the fact that most people are engaged in some kind of tacit bargaining like mine.

I cherish freedom and one of the only things I think is unethical is controlling others.  But all that I’ve been talking about are forms of control and methods to try and subtly and quietly negotiate it behind someone’s back.  It makes me feel sick to think about my whole issue with this, the extreme ends of my reactions to insecurities as well as the everyday manipulations involved — a big chunk of my entire lifestyle is built around it!

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Flexibility

I’ll tell you what I found inspiring today:  The quite posted on tellmewhyimwrong.wordpress.com by James Baldwin:

““Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.  And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed.  Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges.””

The implications of this are really broad and wide.  However, I’m going to focus on one way I think it’s important on a micro-level.  I have noticed that people use categories as a means to relate to people.  To use a weird example, I knew a lady who quit drinking and smoking weed.  She described some of her friends almost being upset with her at first (though others were supportive).  Others just didn’t know what to do when they hung out, because the way they’ve been interacting with her changed.

So we all get into a role.  Maybe you’re the cool person at the party who tells all the jokes and is a political intellectual.  Maybe I’m the hipster queer that dresses like an androgynous German model.  So we get into relationships with people who are interested in interacting with that role.  Usually in some fashion our roles will support or compliment their roles.  I think this is especially true between lovers.

I actually think our identity becomes a trap at that point — the thing that worked for us becomes our enemy.  Because what happens when you wake up one day and feel less like making jokes and just don’t give a toss about your politics to talk about it at the party.  What if you’re feeling more contemplative and flirty, romantic?

Or for me, what if I want to dress like a rock star and pick up all the girls one day?  The thing that everybody thinks is so cool has now changed and there’s going to be some amount of friction.  This might not be too much with peripheral acquaintances, but with close friends, or especially family and lovers, it can get pretty intense.  Ask someone who came out of the closet as gay how much that impacted their family and lover at the time.

This also impacts people in organizations.  The lady who works all the time, puts out everyone else’s fires, and brings in her own office materials will always be taken advantage of and will likely never be promoted.  The old saying, “you want something done, give it to a busy person” is the lady I’m talking about here.  If she were to take a role of leadership, suggesting functional solutions to problems, and drawing clearer boundaries about her requirements, you’d better believe there would be huge friction!  Or if for some other reason her power relation to the organization changed, her interactions with her coworkers will experience stress.

I dream of a world, or at least a group of people where individuals could be free to act in true spontanaity, which I think would produce a level of honesty that we don’t usually see now.  Commitment and consistency are methods pick up artists use to get people to do stuff they might not otherwise be comfortable with.

“So where’s the craziest place you ever had sex?”

“In the top of a lighthouse”

“Wow, what would your Sunday school class think if they knew about it?”

“Actually, it was with a boy from church.”

“Oh my god, you’re such a bad bad girl, aren’t you?”

<giggles> “yes I am.”

“I think that’s really cute.  I’ll give you five bad girl points for that.”

“Hey!  Only five!” <pouts>

Our pick up artists then proceeds to drive her to prove the identity that she has committed too.  I know that’s a weird example, but the same principle works for cult leaders.  There’s also a little bit of a sunk costs fallacy happening here (See wikipedia article on sunk costs fallacy).  Sunk costs is basically where someone invests in something, and gets so far into it, she doesn’t want to back out at this point, so will pour more resources into the losing investment.

All this comes together for me in that at some point, some aspect of identity is going to become rigidified for someone…  at which point they’re trapped (and might not even know it).

Not that you’re doing that or that I’m doing it either.  I’ve found that by casting myself as “gender queer” then I can choose to act however I want.  People don’t expect my identity to contain specific behaviors, and since I’m “queer” anyway, I can violate those behaviors if i want to (flexibility is built into the social role).  Like in the quote, one has to be ready to “to surrender a dream […] long cherished or a privilege” to find something greater.  I think that is true partly because in the moment of NOW, the dreams or privileges of yesterday may no longer be functional, or may no longer be what is best to draw upon for the situation at hand.

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