How to fix something broken

Random thoughts

Month: September, 2016

Ego & capitalism

american-psycho

Marshall Arisman‘s 1998 book cover edition of Bret Easton Ellis‘s American Psycho.

Lately I’ve been using the notion of ego quite often in lots of conversations, either they’re deeper or lighter. I don’t really know what people might think when I do that. Perhaps that I’m a lunatic prophet trying to turn them into some cult fanatics.

But the notion of ego I use is very real. Not an esoteric concept, not even the psychological one. But the ego resulting of an unjust system.

Ego is quantifiable. It is political. It is ingrained in our identity, an identity we build by means of enculturation. It is a cover letter an a protection measure against something out there we believe it’s threatening, something we usually imagine to be The Other. 

It shows in competitivity, pressure to gain success, classism, envy, the lack of solidarity… 

Actually, cultures are the building of collective egos, the ultimate ego projections, a system of rules to maintain social cohesion in a group in order to become strong AGAINST another/other group/s. It is the most primal form of unity and corporation, and it has its fullest expression in the capitalist system. Capitalism is a form of culture in itself that’s been spreading worldwide.

I’m sure even the ancient scholars, ascetics and other people who had experienced and wrote about the esoteric aspects of human existence knew about this.

Gaining awareness is not impossible. It’s not something accessible to just a few chosen. Unless those few chosen are the ones who have the money, the power to get the best education, the best jobs, and the most influence and they convince you that that kind of awareness is out of your league.

 

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What am I?

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Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H’ghar, the faceless master of Arya Stark in the Game of Thrones series, based on the books by George R. R. Martin.

I grow aware more and more each day about how I would like to be known/seen.

I don’t want to be known or recognized for what I think, neither for what I am (what am I, indeed?). I would like to to be known, at least, for what I do, as much as it changes every now and then.

If I stop to think,

I am

To my father, a son

To my son, a father

To my older brother, a little brother

To my little brother, an older brother

To my wife, a husband

To my sister, a brother

To my uncle, a nephew

To my nephew, an uncle

To my teacher, a pupil

To my pupil, a teacher

To my country, a taxpayer

To my town, an army reserve

To my friend, a friend

To my enemy, an enemy

To my doctor, a patient

To my regular pub, a regular costumer

To my dog, a master

To my house, an owner.

 

Therefore

I am

Son

Father

Little brother

Older brother

Husband

Brother

Nephew

Uncle

Pupil

Teacher

Taxpayer

Army reserve

Friend

Enemy

Patient

Regular costumer

Dog master

Owner

And not just one I

 

Tell me,

Then

What’s

The I

No one knows, The I

Here and now,

Who is

I?

김광규 (Kim Kwang Kyu), I, from Faint shadows of love (Huimihan yetsarang-ui geurimja) (1991).

(I apologize, since I translated it from Spanish, as I did not find the English translation, and it might not be completely accurate).

 

Who wants to live forever?*

image

Still from Shôhei Imamura‘s 1983 Narayama bushikô (The ballad of Narayama), based on the 1956 novel by Shichirõ Fukazawa.

Most people wish they could live forever. I guess it’s because we have too many regrets and we would like to catch up with time.

But I guess living forever would mean living forever preferably in a young and lively body, not an old  and wrinckled one.

Also, even if it’s physically impossible, I’d like to know whether our instinct of preservation would gradually disappear, since our body would grow aware of its immortality. Otherwise, that would mean that we would die over and over again and that the sense of danger or fear everytime we were about to die would also repeat itself.

Sometimes I think we live too much. If being old in the modern world meant being respected due to wisdom earnt along the years (not that adding years does necessarily imply becoming wiser….), if it meant that your status grows, even the awareness of physical decay and increasing dependence wouldn’t be so burdensome knowing there are people around showing you their love, letting you know you still matter. Being otherwise, the load of getting old may become even heavier.

*Classic song by Queen, included in their 1986 album A kind of magic and in the Highlander film soundtrack.

Communion?

rearwindow1

James Stewart spies on his neighbors in Hitchcock‘s classic Rear Window (1954).

I miss that time when having an opinion was not important. When the only important thing was being generous, warm-hearted and prone to help others.

Some might say those times never existed. That there’s always been judgemental people everywhere, even more inside a community. But I believe we are even lonelier these days. By expressing your thoughts in social networks, people can judge you even before they know the way you look like, what you do… And based on that they may decide whether they want to get to know you later on or not.

It’s true that in the past some people would hide their true selves in order to be accepted into a social environment. That was a lonely way of life as well. But the same questionable values that put you in the spotlight, sometimes served as a guide to being compassionate to those who didn’t seem to fit (because they were sick, poor or simply different). Even if it was in a paternalistic way. But everyone knew that was the right thing to do.

I believe the reason why people reach out for aliens or supernatural creatures outside of our world, is because they are uncapable of reaching out for their own neighbor, friend, relative when in need.

 

Worn out obsessions

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A still from Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1943 masterpiece Shadow of a doubt, where Joseph Cotten plays a wealthy middle-aged widows murderer obsessed with The merry widow waltz tune, which usually triggers his killing instincts.

 

When the song lyrics have lost its meaning from overplaying it, isn’t it time to skip the track or change the record?

Bee syndrome

zombiebee-small

 

Humans always get frightened and try to chase or scare away a bee whenever they hear one buzzing around. 

You may know that a bee will only sting another living creature (particularly a larger one) when it panics, since it instinctively knows that it dies when it does. 

Try to think about that in a sympathetic fashion next time you see a bee. Or an unprivileged, unfortunate human being with an agressive, violent attitude. They might be far more frightened of you than you are of them.

 

I am sorry. Thank you. I love you.

caravaggio-conversion-pd-wga

A fragment of  Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio‘s The conversion of Saint Paul (1600).

Three things I have a hard time saying.

Allegory of the outcast planet

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A picture of Pluto taken by the space probe New Horizons in 2015.

Teacher: Saying that the solar system has nine planets is not valid anymore. Anyone know the reason?

Yoo Jin: Pluto was kicked out. Now they call it planet number 134340.

Teacher: And do you know why?

Yoo Jin: It’s too far away from the Sun and it has an unstable orbit. Also, it’s not round like the other planets and its mass is too small.

Myung Ho: What a loser…

Teacher: Yoo Jin is right.

Joon: (whispering) That’s wrong.

Soo Jin: Joon says he doesn’t agree.

Teacher: Why not? What’s the reason?

Joon: The reason Pluto was kicked out is because of the assumption that the Solar System is the centre of the universe. We have to consider if this assumption is correct. If being too far away from the Sun is a reason, doesn’t it mean that if it comes closer its status is restored? It’s absurd to evaluate a star by its shape, size, mass or distance from the Sun. Stars are born and die just like humans. The Sun is old already. Nothing is forever.

 

A dialogue excerpt from South Korean movie Pluto (2013).

 

Kill me, heal me*

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Han Byung Chul, South-Korean-German philosopher who usually writes about the isolation and mental illnesses people suffer as a consequence of an aggressive an competitive capitalist system.

Is it obscene to share your depressive, negative thoughts with a vast audience of unknown people who sympathize with the feelings you express in your posts from the other side of a computer screen or device? Yeah, I think it is. 

And even so, I write this blog. And there was a time when I shared everything I felt on my Facebook profile, because I’m usually incapable of any intimacy. It’s hard for me to have a one-on-one conversation where I explain my feelings right away. 

I know the messages are not always hopeless. I also try to send messages of encouragement, redemption, self-awareness… But there are days when I’m sad. Terribly sad. So sad I wish I didn’t exist. Or rather frustrated. Yes, the word is frustration. And anger.

I’m angry at this world -or at least at this society I’m part of- that made us loners but at the same time so eager for affection, that when we need to ask for it our judgemental self makes us feel as if we were being selfish, too demanding, and as if we were making others waste their precious time. And it’s true that sometimes we become selfish and unable to give. We can only take and take. And the more we take, the emptier we feel.

Affection is awkward, even love can be awkward -I’m not talking about romantic love-, but just hugging or caressing someone when you need to. I have a hard time doing that, for instance. And according to my cultural background (I’m a Latin Mediterranean), apparently, I should be really affectionate. But that’s just a cliché.

You may remember, dearest reader, that not long ago I wrote a post about suicide. I didn’t explain then why I did it (trying to commit suicide, not writing the post). 

Usually people kill themselves out of unrequited love, money debts, or simply because they can’t find any meaning to their lives.

I did it because I wanted to kill my ego. And now I dare you call me nuts. And no, this is not something I reflected upon long after I did it. I already knew what the motive was when I was doing it.

I felt divided, “disassociated”, medically speaking. My other self was just tormenting me and I needed to put an end to it. The funny thing is, just as I was doing it, and the mere fact that I was aware of the reason, gave me a feeling of relief I’ve never experienced before. 

What I found out later, is that it’s possible to kill/tame your ego, that little son-of-a-bitch that spends its life boycotting yours while it seems all you can do is powerlessly witnessing it. Not that the global system makes it easy fot you… but, believe me, you can.

The key is loving yourself a little more, not letting anything or anyone drag you down, and share that love with others. When you’re feeling down, let those feelings linger just as much as it’s needed; do not repress them or try to escape them. Cry your guts out. Scream, write down what makes you feel frustrated. Call someone. Most of the time they’ll be busy and that sucks. But if they’re good people, they’ll tell you they can take care of your needs right after they’re done with what they’re doing. Trust them and trust your own judgement when it comes to choosing friends. 

If you’re left alone -because that can and will happen-, try to do something you enjoy (watch a movie -a lighthearted one, please, or something with an encouraging message-, draw, do crochet… whatever).

Play sports, preferably something amusing or martial arts (don’t waste your time lifting dumbbells, unless you’re already practising some sport and you do it every now and then to keep fit; that’s plain boring, sorry). We’re all lazy, and we tend to live more in our heads than to fulfill our bodily needs, but I can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Try to enjoy the simplest things in life: a good meal, cuddling with your pet…

No, it’s definetely not easy and it requires courage. Each and every day. 

And yeah, self-help sucks, blah, blah, blah. I know there are people who can’t even afford to be depressed because their lives basically consist of trying to survive everyday. And I’m not just talking about the poor. I’m also talking about the ill, the lonely…

I don’t know what it is to lack the basics (I mean from a materialistic perspective), but I can understand how scared and angry at people and God I would be if this fucked up world had set up such fate for me (sometimes it looks as if Fate was invented by the wealthy and the privileged to justify their status).

I really wouldn’t know what to tell these people, except maybe “try not to despair”. Believe it or not, there are mostly good people out there. Oblivious, neglectful, but all in all good. And they are willing to reach out a hand for you.

 

*A psychological South Korean TV romantic comedy series from 2015.