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The man with the clear head

is the man who frees himself from those fantastic “ideas” [the characterological lie about reality] and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. And this is the simple truth—that to live is to feel oneself lost—he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality.

—Earnest Becker, The Denial of Death

❱❱ Plot Economics

Global narrative collapse events tend to have a very surreal glued-to-screens quality surrounding them. That’s how you know everybody has lost the plot: everybody is tracking the rawest information they have access to, rather than the narrative that most efficiently sustains their reality.
In terms of some new vocabulary I’m developing, temporality (your constructed sense of subjective time) collapses to what I call the log level. As in, you’re down to monitoring the equivalent of computer event logs; the tick-tock stream of raw events being recorded, prior to being evaluated and filtered for significance.

Venkatesh Rao on agency and narrative collapse…

❱❱ How not to freak out

It’s not as if times of fear and despair are anything new. People have fought wars, struggled to survive, faced injustice, experienced loss, dealt with violence and greed, and been caught up in historical movements beyond their control pretty much forever.

Life has never been that easy.

In Buddhist practice, you learn never to shy away from facing the pain of the human condition. At the same time, you also learn not to shy away from the beauty and value of life in all its forms.

By clearly seeing the extremes of experience, you learn to scout a middle way.

If you find all the bad news overwhelming, Buddhist teacher Judy Lief has some meditations to help…

Early in 2016 Twitter was awash with folks talking about resistance. Primarily in reference to the recently sworn in president - A man who was going to be in office four long years.

I asked people I knew there "Where did you first learn resilience?"

There was no response.

“Adversity is a fact of life. Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise.” —Psychology Today

It wasn't surprising. The circles represented by my Twitter followers were largely comprised of folks that have been upper middle class for their entire lives. In a handful of cases, they'd even moved into full on wealth.

In that world, resilience is largely hypothetical.

Not that they haven't faced very real struggles. Both internal and external. But resilience is not required to come back from those difficulties. There is a contextual momentum that can carry one through. Repeatedly.

Take that missed opportunity for growth and mix it with privilege. Resilience becomes less a concept and more a metaphor for "spending money". Think of post-crash gold bar dreams, Post-Trump safe room fantasies, and even more extreme schemes.

Retreating into privilege can only ever work temporarily (at best). There is always something lurking around the corner to pop your bubble. Largely because the same factors that enable retreat feed what lurks.

Creating a toilet paper shortage out of fear of a toilet paper shortage is not resilience.

Neither is another video game console.

Or fearing your neighbors.

Or binge watching television.

Or refreshing Twitter.

It is liberating to drop the fantasy of there being a more perfect world, somehow, somewhere, and instead accept that we need to engage with the world as it is.

Buddhism offers a sustainable way to reduce the anxieties of events we have no direct connection with or control over. It's the way I'm personally most familiar with. There are others.

There's no better time to break these ouroborsian habits. Use that anxious energy to explore and practice.

You may find the essay from Judy Lief inspiring. In your explorations you may find something else that can't be so easily summed up in an "ism".

It doesn't matter what you choose.

All that matter's is that the actions proscribed meet a simple test: Are they wide eyed and open hearted?

How to live in a more lighthearted way

Life is - it goes without saying - for the most part a tragic affair. But being clear-eyed about the horror shouldn't prevent us from taking great pleasure in the things that go right; we can laugh on our way to the gallows.

Values drive actions

“A man divided against himself, by definition, lacks integrity.” -Alan Watts

Unwillingness to be honest with ourselves about ourselves leads to an unrealistic assessment of our actions.

Values and actions become disconnected. Creating a life that veers away from integrity.


How do you discovery identity within oppression?

People of privilege (middle class / white / college educated / male / etc) don't see themselves as vital cogs in the wheels of oppression.

They do not see the oppressed.

They do not see themselves.

They can't see themselves. The disconnect between their values and their lived lives is too great.

Reconciling that disconnect, in a world that has only ever told them their comfort is divine, is extremely painful.


The privileged push this pain / fear / guilt away by establishing relationships that nurture complex, largely unspoken, social norms which justify and excuse oppression. That hide behind the ego by way of fictional internal and external heroic narratives.

This traps them in a cycle:

  • Feel: pain / guilt / fear
  • Double down on consumer comfort - Elevate the supposed life in the perks of privilege (‘finer things’)
  • Achieve some degree of those comforts - by real or unrealistic methods (IE: credit) and by profiting from disconnected oppression
  • Feel “relief” - Which is really “newness”
  • Feel: pain / guilt / fear
  • Double down on comfort
  • Repeat forever

Compromising integrity is a slippery slope. The refusal to try and see oneself as one truly is makes meaningful change feel impossible.

What starts as a collection of bad habits becomes a system of values.

Values drive actions.

❱❱ What It Takes to Grow Up, What It Means to Have Grown

Perhaps the most difficult beauty and the hardest-won glory of true adulthood is the refusal, vehement and counter-cultural and proud, to relinquish our inner magnolias as we grow older, declining to sacrifice them at the altar-register of a culture that continually robs us of our self-worth and tries to sell it back to us at the price of the latest product.

Maria Popova collects a bit of wisdom about growing up and it's relationship to consumer culture…

❱❱ Why You Can't Trust Yourself

  1. You are biased and selfish without realizing it
  2. You don’t have a clue about what makes you happy (or miserable)
  3. You are easily manipulated into making bad decisions
  4. You generally only use logic and reason to support your preexisting beliefs
  5. Your emotions change your perceptions way more than you realize
  6. Your memory sucks
  7. ‘You’ aren’t who you think you are
  8. Your physical experience of the world isn’t even that real

Thorough breakdown from Mark Manson…