Apr 8, 2011

It's Twosday (Welcome to the Pot Talk Tangent)

"That's just how I am. It's how I comfortably process information."

How long before you analyze that statement?

That aside, to try and answer one of the questions posed "how much power does she have to change how anchored to that perspective she is?"

The power is always there. Whether it's worth it to change the perspective is a different story.

I'd argue that you get older, you get more set in your ways simply because it's easier. You have an established identity, you have habits that are yours, and you feel comfortable with it. Since the teenage years, you've carved out a familiar road in the landscape of the mind. This is your consistent intellectual state.

Suppose you meet an obstacle. Can you plow through it? Or is it easier to bypass it? Or is it so vast a canyon that you'd just rather not deal with it? These challenges can be co-opted, confronted or ignored. Every synthesis takes time and energy that I may not want to expend.

In the end, it is a matter of will (internal or exteral doesn't really matter).

I just want to throw out as a disclaimer that this post does major offroading from the last one, and is only tangentially tied into what I was talking about before. The following is more of a metaphysical discussion I've been unintentionally having with myself in the past few days.

It's more complicated than that. Life is not a three fork road. The outcomes of your choices are just as profound as the choices themselves, and the scenarios themselves. If you take one road, can you take other later? Can you even understand them later? I think people get stuck in their own decisions on a subtler level than what you guys are talking about. I'm not talking about opinion or personality. There are traits that we all have that make us who we are. It would be pompous and silly of me to say, "I'm always going to be who I am today." But there are certain traits, certain ways of being that we all become comfortable with, that we assimilate for long stretches of our lives, sometimes permanently. Not to nerd it up but there's a great line in Dragon Age from Sten that I feel applies here:

"Age by age have men stood up and said to the world, 'From what has come before me, I was forged, but I am new and greater than my forebears.' And so each man walks the world in ruin, abandoned and untried. Less than the whole of his being."

The problem is not that you have an array of choices. It's not that life has insurmountable moments. It's that each decision we make seems to be metaphysically a step away from everything else. Every experience is colored by the fact that it's opposite to every other possible experience in that same realm. And you're shaped just as much by your perception of your choices as the choices themselves. For example, suppose you find out that your girlfriend wrecked your car. You could choose to be angry. You could choose to be forgiving. You could choose to be indifferent. You could hit her. You could try to make her feel better about it. The choice you make in that moment is who you are, but it also decides who you aren't, and who you can't be. You can't, in one life, do and be all of those things with every person and every situation. Having an identity by definition is putting yourself into a container. And how much of its actual flexibility is illusory?

It's very easy to look at your parents and say, "look at the limitations they have that I do not." But those are the words of a limited man. My sister was once complaining about feeling like she was becoming her dad. This is something I of course can identify with, but like me, she couldn't be further from the truth. I said, "If you got locked in a closet, you'd think 'boy it sucks being stuck in here.' If your dad got locked in a closet, he'd think 'boy the world sure is small.'" In the course of trying to escape becoming what you perceive to be 'just like your parents', it's easy to distill the world into those two states of existence, being them and not being them. The challenge of life, or so it seems to me right now, is having an identity that isn't a cage and isn't a sandcastle, and also realizing this. You wander and stop so you can try to understand yourself. But if you don't keep moving, you don't grow. There's no way to get where you're going without missing everything that isn't along the way. When you think about it, there's so little you can accomplish for your own soul in one life. Every person you've ever met in your life, you'll never be, and you'll never fully understand. We've met and will meet people that we agree with, that we share commonalities with, deep personal experiences that we won't have with any other person. But I'll never be you, or have you as a part of my being. Our uniqueness is what makes us interesting, what gives purpose to be exposed to each other in our lives. The fact that I'm not you is why you find me exciting, and vice versa. But uniqueness and growth have a border. It's not a close border granted, but a border nonetheless. The closest I think we can ever get to being each other is emotional understanding, rational understanding. We can't have intrinsic understanding. Not without breaching what makes you unique. An identity to an extent will always be a cage. The most we can aspire to do is enlarge it. When you erode an identity from a cage to a sandcastle, then you make yourself insignificant. You didn't really exist. Your time was wasted. How comfortable should you be with your cage? No matter the size, it's always going to be smaller than the world it exists in, it's always going to sit exactly where it is, no matter how much ground it covers. Is this all a part of a longer journey then? Is all this just a step?

Ron Bennington mentioned something really interesting on the radio the other day. He said the two things all people should experience are a birth and a death. Him and Opie were talking about when Opie's son was born, how it seemed that this weird energy entered into the room when the baby came out. Op said in the first two minutes it was like a stranger entered the room. He thought, with resentment, "Who the fuck are you?" to his own kid in those first moments. And then the feeling completely passed. Ron said he had a very similar feeling. He looked into his own son's eyes and realized that so much of the cement was already dried. This was a personality already made, and the most he could ever do would be to guide it. He said the same thing about death. How, holding someone in your arms as they pass, you can feel their energy leave, that all the power and energy of who they are becomes free. He said after that moment, when you look on the body, you can see its emptiness, you can feel that the person is gone and what's left behind is just the shell. It's strange to think how little we know considering the breadth of knowledge we have. It just seems like we're passing into this weak form, this primitive shell, and through that weakness we gain understanding. But we gain so little understanding. An ancient man has a tattered shred of the universe in him. Most of us will end up with so much less. It's hard to understand what's important in the scale of things. It's hard to know how to feel about yourself and your place in the universe. How many times do we ride this ride? Is it just once, and then oblivion? What do we take from it? What do we give back? It's all a little too heavy.


Doug said...

I had some long comment here that got lost. Gist of it was that there is nothing weird about being a "sandcastle". We ARE ultimately insignificant. One person out of billions on a planet out of trillions in a galaxy out of countless more floating in the vastness of an expanding infinity.

Given that insignificance, what is the point of existence? To establish ourselves by establishing others. To enlarge ourselves by enlarging others.

Travis said...

There's some real buddhist shit I'd like to get into because I think they way some of their teachings regard our personal significance to be pretty grounded and wise.

In short, I agree with Doug to an extent. There's nothing wrong with being the sandcastle. It's an awesome metaphor because we get to consider things like the sand itself. The grains that make up the "castle", or in other words, our "legacy". When you can begin to except things like interconnectedness you see that the sandcastle is in fact super beautiful. The ocean washes it in, and it will wash it away. It is temporary but it's made of the exact same things everything else is. You eventually return to what you come from, which is a scary idea to get used to.

You're legacy is what you give. And if you believe that you are coming back than even better. Just do the best you can and leave some love and wisdom behind. It's what powered you and what will power others.

matt said...

We ride this ride as many times as we want, as many as is needed. We stop once we've gotten our fill, experienced all there is to experience, then we move on. That's what i think anyway.

I think, right now, I'm just a prisoner.

Travis said...

You've always been a caged animal.

Bryan said...


Doug and Travis, you're missing my point in saying 'sandcastle.' A sandcastle is a brittle, ill-defined thing that can easily vanish. It has no real substance. Perhaps I should have said "smoke ring" instead.

Doug said...

And it is a perfect metaphor for the fleeting moment we call life. That's what I trying to get at. It doesn't matter if there is an afterlife, it doesn't matter if we are reborn, it doesn't matter if there is or isn't a "soul". What matters is the moment that we live in because it is the moment that we exist and can enact change. To enact positive change, I think then is a worthy goal.

Your cage is really your creation. The "other" reinforces those constraints insofar as how your actions either confirm or confound their perception especially when we are talking about perception based on actual interaction, and not perception based on societal/media-driven expectations.

Travis said...

That's true I think smoke ring would be a better fitting metaphor, but oddly enough my "advice" still holds relevance to your post, especially by the last paragraph.

Something I enjoyed about this post was the was you explain the limitations of ever being able to "know" people. That it could never be done, and we only have a limited time to ever accomplish knowing anybody. And if we do it would be to different superficial extents.

Doug said...

Buddhist philosophy argues that the only reason why you can't know others is because of the refusal to let go of your cage. The cage both protects and limits.

Bryan said...

I think you're taking the cage in a different context. I think living life as a smoke ring is a complete waste.

Doug said...

So what's the context you're using it in?

Travis said...

I would like further clarification what the smoke ring is again, at this point, and why it's a complete waste of a way to live? I've re-read the last several paragraps, well, several times and I'm not really sure if there are any disagreements to be had about it. We're tripping over definitions, and I feel like you could rephrase your post in another manner (and that would also be pretty interesting). It kind of seems like to me you're wondering how much time we can spend trying to be ourselves, vs how much time we actually have to live who we are, or at least our own concept of who we try to be. I've always felt that having "character" at it's core is kind of a fallacy. I have no idea how I really behave anymore- am I more of the smoke ring? Whatever's going on with me I feel at least it's been really interesting, and it always feels honest.

Bryan said...

To me, a smoke ring is a lack of an identity. It's someone not committing to have a defined personality. It's a guy you could spend years with and still have trouble describing to people, not because he's complicated, but because he just sort of exists. Like a smoke ring, you get exhaled, you have a vague shape that vanishes. No one remembers what any specific smoke ring looks like later because it was inconsequential.

You are certainly not a smoke ring. I'm not one either. I think we're limited by what we can be in one lifetime. Using that time to be nothing, makes absolutely no sense to me, and that's how I would define a smoke ring.

Doug said...

In a less mystical and touchy-feely take on ego, identity and vulnerability...