Saturday, March 3, 2012


The following was going to be a reply to Cym's recent post, but it got rather long and turned into a blog post, so here it is.

I am constantly running up against stuff that irritates me, stupidness, ignorance, all the minor complaints of a given day. Like, last week, I was installing a bathroom light, and to attach the lamp body to the wall plate, there was a screw coming from the back of the wall plate, through the lamp body; you put an acorn nut on the end to secure the lamp that way. Well, the screw was too long, so the nut would bottom out before it pressed against the lamp body. But the hole in the wall plate wasn't threaded, was too big for that girth of screw. So there was no way to back the screw out a bit, meaning the whole thing leans forward, and there's not a damn thing you can do. Yet the thing was a higher end light. WTF? You just throw your hands up at this kind of idiotic design. Someone gets paid a lot of money to make this stupid shit.

But, I've learned to live in the moment, or maybe always have. Some people will get home in the evening and call up their friends and go through their whole day, the good and the bad, but I find that hard to do, because most of it just slides right off my brain. Ask me how my day went, and you'll likely get monosyllables as a reply; the day tends to register more as a general feeling. Only the bigger stuff sticks (like that light, which required some creative thought, plus a weekend trip to a hardware store). Most of it just doesn't seem worth talking about, and I have to really stop to think about the specifics. The day sort of just vanishes for me.

The next step up is political stuff. I could bitch all day about a ton of different issues, I have opinions on most of it, but mostly don't feel like going to the effort, and mostly don't think about it until I am spurred to by reading or hearing something stupid. Maybe if I had a wider audience, and felt like it might have purpose, but mostly it's just crap you gotta live with. It doesn't add much to anything. Like the old joke, when someone asks how you are, and you say, "can't complain," and they say, laughing, "and no one would listen if you did, right?" I try not to waste my breath (or typing) on gripes, and as well try to not do so internally, in my own mind.

I think this puts me on the right track. Irritation is normal, I think, but to stew on it is unenlightened. Maybe if we could let things go quickly, we'd be happier. I know I've long internalized, such as I'm able as a fallible human being, the way Siddhartha in Herman Hesse's novel of the same name, could "wait." Patience was one of his skills, being an advanced meditator, and though I'm not one of those, I abide by the phrase of "it will pass." I may have a brief "outburst" (mentally at least), but like a summer storm, it doesn't last long. I'm not sure if this is an inborn trait or something I've learned, I suspect some of both.

Of course, if we all let things flow by in the stream of time, didn't hold onto our gripes, we'd probably have a hell of a lot less to talk about. After all, the easiest thing to talk about is the problem, the moment's bitch about this or that. I've long noticed that such griping is much of what people talk about at work, and often enough at home too. And of course, some problems do merit holding onto, things that demand justice and action. And as Jack Johnson sang in a favorite lyric of mine, "we are only what we hate." Interesting that we seem to be defined as much by what we find repellant as by what we like (of course, in a dualistic world, it goes both ways).

Controversy, angst, confusion, sadness, and irritation really do inspire words, whereas happiness, pleasure, and bliss do not. Baroness wrote in a comment that the most poignant poetry comes from doubt and disappointment, the best stories are of conflict and loss. You couldn't write a book about nirvana or heaven, but of hell? One need only look to Milton and Dante, right? Of course, there is also some amazing ecstatic poetry, but to be honest, there are far fewer poems that I've read that really move me to joy, compared to how many of the more somber ones have moved me to real feelings of sadness and pain. This is far less true for music, but, music being a category unto itself, and non-verbal, the point remains.

Maybe it's because words are divisions, and joy is more a feeling of connection. You don't really want to separate yourself from the moment to stand back and describe it, because you immediately lose the joy, right? In fact, in many ways, endlessly talking or writing about a problem or political issue or whatever, is a great way to avoid really dealing with it, really doing anything about it. It's easy to sit back and pop off about global warming, the 1%, political corruption, the hungry, the poor, the million different things a bleeding heart liberal like me can feel concerned about, but what it really achieves is a distancing, an objectivization, a rationalization... but not action.


  1. I disagree that writing about something "is a great way to avoid really dealing with it, really doing anything about it." In many cases -- though certainly not in all cases -- writing serves as the prime motivator to commit to action by yourself and others.

    At this stage of my life (due to my physical and mental deterioration), I'm no longer an activist, but when I was out in the streets, I wrote a lot and I wrote to motivate myself and others. It's near too impossible to maintain activism without some kind of emotional spark. Passionate writing and speaking often provides that.

    Also, as I have noted on my blog before, writing helps me to think about things more deeply. I can work things out in my own mind far better if I put pen to paper, as it were.

    Before the advent of the blogging platform, I basically wrote all the time for my eyes or my family's eyes only. Now I write for the world and I get the added benefit of feedback!

  2. Dogs speak in barks, rain speaks in drops, and people speak in words; words are just as much a part of our nature, and nature as a whole, as our own breath. Words may divide, but they also unite; just as closed fists may be used to divide in an act of hate, open hands may be used to embrace in an act of love. They'll be an upcoming post on this topic: on the naturalness of words.

    I also disagree with what you said here:

    "In fact, in many ways, endlessly talking or writing about a problem or political issue or whatever, is a great way to avoid really dealing with it, really doing anything about it."

    Perhaps you don't mean always, or even most of the time, but only sometimes...because otherwise what would you say of books, or journalism? For instance, were all the books written about global warming written as a way to avoid dealing with it? Do people write social justice books with the purpose of nothing being done about their issue? Are you saying that reading/writing doesn't play any productive role in addressing the world's problems?

    I don't think you are saying that, but that is your objection taking to the extreme.

    If someone is endlessly talking about something, without doing anything about it, then perhaps it is because they are talking about the wrong things; they need to change their dialogue. But then again, some people are not doers, but are messengers. Their role is to point the way, to provide the knowledge for others to act on, and speaking and writing is often the only way of sharing that knowledge.

    The fact is people make excuses all the time, people talk about problems and do nothing about them, just as much as people don't talk about problems and do nothing about them. But that doesn't change the fact that words, both spoken and written, are our primary method of communication, for sharing information, accumulating facts, and researching possibilities.

    Words are perhaps not actions in themselves, but they are inciters of action, and before you can do something it helps if you have some facts before you to aid in your action. It's about preparation, getting educated, gathering knowledge before you act, and perhaps helping to educate others before they act.

    But if you think talking, writing, or reading about doing stuff, is preventing you from acting, then by all means stop talking, writing, reading about it for awhile, and see how far it gets you.

  3. I'm not seeing an option to email comments to me. Do you know anything about that? There used to be a box to check off, but I'm not seeing it any more. Any one else having that problem?

    Hmm, I also noticed that feature is missing on my blog too. That sucks. Hope they fix it soon, it was a nice feature to have.

  4. Great comment, Cym!!

    By the way, like Brandon, the posts you both wrote motivated me to write one myself that features snippets from both of your posts. It will hit my blog tomorrow evening.

  5. Cym, you're right. I thought something was missing in the new look comments section and that's it. I agree. I hope they bring it back. It's a very helpful tool for engaging in conversation via a blog.

  6. I just did some investigating, and apparently email notification is not currently available in the "pop up" and "full-page" comment form options, but it does work in the "embedded" comments format. I've just switched over to that for the time being. One good thing about that option, is that they've recently added a cool new feature, where you can reply to individual comments.

  7. Brandon, while I pointed out a couple things I disagree with, I did not mean to imply that I disagree with everything. It's a good post. And look, you may have helped inspire at least two or more posts from it, so thanks for the inspiration.

    I get what you're saying about people being all talk, no action, it is a common complaint of my own. I guess what you need to do when looking at any problem or complaint, is to ask yourself if there is actually anything that can be done about it, or if complaining is just a waste of time? Regarding your construction job example, if your job is to install something that is an over-priced piece of shit, the best you can do is to advise people not to use it, give them better alternatives, and not use it yourself, but if the decision is out of your hands, complaining about it will change nothing.

    So yeah, I get what your saying, and agree with much of what you've written here, with just a couple of disagreements.

  8. I just feel like as a society, there's a lot of talk about issues but little done about them. It starts to seem like just a lot of hot air. Trey, you must agree with this, you post about it all the time, the Democrats are famous for it (while the Republicans are just insane). If you write a book about some issue or problem, or even a series of blog posts and the like, it gives you a feeling of having done something without really accomplishing anything towards a true resolution of said problem.

    Look, I'm a blogger and a writer, I'm not saying it's pointless. Bringing an issue publicity is important, and dialogue in general is necessary and natural for humans. We'd all be crazy hermits otherwise; and you can't solve a problem if you don't talk about it.

    So Cym, I didn't mean always. I just see it... well, a bit analogous to spiritual pride. You think you're getting close to god, when all you're doing is beefing up the ol' ego. Words/writing/talk have their place, of course, but too often it gets stuck there. Again referring back to that sense of having done something when you really haven't.

    By the way, I also miss the email notifications, when I remember to click the box, that is.

    1. Yeah well the way I see it it's all good, everything has it's place, everything is part of the process, all words contribute to the collective body of knowledge. Even if much of it is just a bunch of hot air, a lot of talk, no action, whatever is of value will be applied eventually, and if not, it's back to the drawing board. The point is you can't expect instantaneous results, or change over night; sometimes people need to talk longer than others, repeat themselves, going around in circles for years, but will eventually orientate themselves in the direction they need to be.

      Either way, all problems I think have a way of working themselves out, some people just need a little more time for that to happen, and for some talking about problems, without actually doing anything, is just part of the process of building up the momentum they need to get to where they need to be. You could think of all that hot air as potential energy accumulating to eventually power a hot air balloon leading to a new renaissance of innovative thinking and social change.

    2. I think my reaction is born of the fact that you made a blanket statement (something I've been known to do as well!). Yes, I DO complain about politicians that are mostly talk, but little do. However, in those sorts of cases, I see a difference than what I think you were referring to. That difference is that their tack is intentional! They do this to mislead and delude the public -- what the Taoist sages refer to as contriving.

  9. "...words are divisions, and joy is more a feeling of connection..."

    I've come late to this party, but this jumped out at sounds a little like "those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak" to me.