Category Archives: Psychology

Dear Mole, Indigestion


Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.  A simplification of the heart of Epicureanism seems to make it align with one of my earliest teenage epiphanies: “The meaning of life is to enjoy oneself”.  Simple enough.  Despite all of my intellectual self-torture in the ensuing years, the only change to this basic worldview has been the addition of the disclaimer, “…without causing intentional harm to others.”  And just like that, Bacchanalia became Buddhism but Buddhism stripped of its supernatural elements is essentially Epicureanism for the empathy-prone.

Going back to the previous topic of why we still adhere to most of society’s rules despite having mentally divorced ourselves from its cultural tendrils, I think we missed the most obvious reason for this: it’s just easier.  In establishing that we both still pursue enjoyment in our particular ways, we also established that we’d prefer to avoid unnecessary suffering.  When one flagrantly flaunts society’s conventions, jail is often the outcome of such behavior.  I’d do terrible in prison.  Worse than most.

My problem with a passionate embrace of a pleasure-seeking life is that very little gives me pleasure anymore.  I eat in order to avoid the feeling of hunger, but I hate cooking and three decades of smoking has dulled my palette.  Alcohol and all drugs aside from medically prescribed weed are verboten (see the desire to avoid incarceration in the previous paragraph).  I still love music, but the way it would shake me to my very soul in my youth is an increasing rarity.  The entire world of sex and romance — once my very raison d’etre — is something I now find an unnecessary hassle.  In other words, despite the fact that I still have a hint of a sex drive, the negatives of dating far outweigh the potential positives.

So I watch a lot of TV and sometimes I even show up here on WordPress and write about shit that I watched on TV.  I’ve already explained my love of passive activities, but TV is also where I gather new material at which to laugh.

What did Epicurus or Lucretius have to say about laughter?  If I possess any skill whatsoever, it’s the ability to find the humor in everything.  It is literally what keeps me sane (and amused).  Would you guess that this love of comedy says something deeper about my need for constant reminders of the absurdity of it all?  Does it perhaps betray the fact that I don’t really feel it to be as laughable as I contend?

You now have a picture of Ozzy sitting on the toilet gracing your blog page.  You’re welcome.  That’s what friends are for.




Magnesium: Movies in my mind

For whatever reason, my wife has decided to perform chemical experiments on me.

Sure, what the hell, YODO right? (you only die once).

Vitamin D is one that I personally know helps with feeling blue. Within hours my mood will crawl its way out from the quagmire it typically slinks within, and upon reflection, I have to admit that I feel better.

Lately she’s been administering a new pill: Magnesium. She says it’s to help me stay asleep while she roams the halls at three am dealing with the cats and her own foibles. Fine, hand it over. Gulp.

Holy shit, what a trip!

The sleeping dreams I’m having are fantastic. They’re cogent and consistent and go on and on. What is normally a spastic-scene slap-together is now a double feature movie. Last night’s had a talking, mathematician newborn whom we somehow acquired. There was this wicked car accident (unwitnessed) which left an old girl friend’s mother hanging from a ledge. When I went to help, I pushed this columnar rock down the chasm, as I recall the image, watching it teeter and tumble amazes me still.

The variety and cinematic treatment is better than virtual reality—I’m there, participating and it’s kick-ass.

“Do you want to keep taking these?” she asks.

Hell, yes!

Dear Mudge, Spicy or mild

Dear Mudge,

People think the Northwest is nothing but conifer trees. Around here, we’re covered with temperate trees which have recently shed their billions of leaves. Red and white oak (you recall the post about acorns from last fall), big-leaf maple, birch, elm, alder and others have dropped their coats blanketing the yards, streets and sidewalks. I walk to and from work and have had to wade through such drifts of deciduous dandruff. While suspended, the colors were vivid. But now, mixed with rain and ground to paste on the pavement, they’re as slippery as snot.

I don’t think much about god(s) for the same reason I don’t think about Leprechauns or mermaids. In my earlier decades I used to spend hours on the topic (including Leprechauns and mermaids). Now, I gravitate toward more concrete topics with my one deviation being the contemplation of the heat death of the Universe and the end of everything.

In regards to Mr. Houston’s quoted—quoted quote “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” I disagree. My analysis has resulted in the opposite conclusion. My research has concluded that, given that the Universe is absurd, there is nothing to *believe* in.

However, people, in general, are programmed to believe. To believe in whatever, take your pick… Belief is a survival tactic. And surviving is Job One.

I’ve chosen to forgo belief (and I’m waffling on survival).

Those words were selected with intent. I’m convinced humanity is pre-programmed. You, me, we are pre-programmed—by DNA. In fact, we ARE the program and DNA is the code.

Why do you and I (and others no doubt), reject all meaning, yet become irritated with others for the stupidest of behaviors or transgressions? Programming. They’re behaving outside our idea of acceptable norms. Why do we create and obey the rules, protect the Commons (pick up dog shit), and generally treat each other without open hostility? Programming. DNA has made us this way.

When we reject our programming, it’s hard. Unless you’re a sociopath (or a psychopath), we are genetically predisposed to conform to certain behaviors. I’m a firm advocate of E.O.Wilson’s The Altruism Gene, else humanity would still be roving in small bands across the African plains, not giving a shit, really, about one another. But we do give a shit. And by doing so, by caring, I think we react to others when they themselves fail to care. We’re programmed to care. Society is built on caring.

Behind my eyebrows you’ll find—a program—that I’m trying to rewrite.

I propose that by rejecting theistic tendencies, you are also rewriting your own program. And, as we’ve explored, we re-programmers are a lonely lot. Most would merrily plug along with DNA choosing their future.

In my personal re-coding efforts, I’ve not performed the exhaustive analysis of the existential options as I believe you have, but, I’ve tried a few. One I’d like to explore now, since thus far I’ve found none that fit me well, is the Epicurean philosophy. We are, after all, still here, so we’re not fully divorced from our programming. And if we’re not going to fully reject DNA’s sway over our lives, we might consider some thought experiment which, if nothing else, provides us momentary happiness.

What are your thoughts on Epicurus and his buddy Titus Lucretius? I know that Seneca both adored and despised Epicurus, but I’m hoping we could dwell on, oh, good drink, fine food (spicy and mild) and mind-bending drugs for a while. (Oh, and for Duke and Phil’s sake, we could discuss SEX, too.)


Dear Mole, MY Brows


My apologies for the late reply, but I spent the better part of Veterans Day partying large.

I’m afraid that’s where my contrition ends because contrary to your assertion that I went straight for the jugular, I intentionally led off with the God thing precisely because its origins and illusory psychological pacification are easily understood.  I say “illusory” because I have known some patently miserable people whose stated faith in God was ironically unshakeable.  Take my late mother, for instance.  Though you’d be hard pressed to find someone as obsessively and devoutly religious as she, the adjective “happy” was rarely if ever applicable to this long-suffering woman who, in retrospect, was simply a victim of bad ideas passed down through the ages.  The only other thing in her life to which she devoted an equally impressive amount of energy was house cleaning, something she did so obsessively in order to give herself the imagined feeling of control.  Now why would someone with such an iron-clad faith in “God’s plan” feel the anxious need to exert maximum control over her surroundings and pore desperately through her random thoughts for ones that might have originated with Satan (or as Mom so quaintly put it, “The Devil”)?  Because at a base and perhaps subconscious level, Mom, like everyone not suffering from a severe learning disability, knows the doctrine of monotheism to be patently ludicrous.  Not once did she ever consciously admit this to herself, mind you, but the primordial doubt existed in her just the same.

I’m sure you recall that in the past, this is where I would take this uncertainty and spin it into a very spiritual-sounding, pseudo-scientific metaphysical and holistic view or, as Alan Watts so frequently did, make the implication that each of us IS God.  While there is room enough for such a vague and non-dogmatic spiritual infusion into an otherwise science-based discussion, is there purpose enough?  Nihilists believe that experience and consciousness cease at the moment of death.  Curmudgeon of Old convinced himself to believe that only the ego or the personality/memories of the individual are extinguished at death but that an undefined karmic connection still ties what once constituted “me” into the larger cosmic dance.  Now think about the upshot of both of those theories and you’ll quickly understand that despite a vast difference in tone, they are identical.  Nothing is nothing no matter how poetically one attempts to describe it.  Thus I was presenting myself to the world as essentially a “spiritual nihilist” which isn’t just ludicrous, but laughably so.  Regardless, each time I did say such things, I did so within accepted societal, cultural and of course, WordPress parameters.  As you so astutely noted, I was working willingly within society’s rules in order to eviscerate society’s rules for the benefit of…society?  Whew…what a shit mound of nonsense to unload.  Since I’ve obviously decided to approach your question from an experiential standpoint, I will need a bit more time to ponder your query and perform a bit of self-psychoanalysis.

It is, of course, improbable that we won’t find a way to spin back around to the notion of God in our ongoing correspondence, but at least we dispensed of its overstated magnitude right off the bat.  I say “improbable” because if there is any commonality between us, it’s our shared disgust for the intellectually barren and the willfully ignorant.  And that was as fine a segue as any for my question to you: regardless that we both seem rather mired in existential exhaustion, why do you think we’re both still capable of being triggered by the stupidity of others?  Doesn’t such aggravation imply that we believe things could be different, that people really could collectively pull their heads out from betwixt their asses if we just whine about it loudly and persistently enough?  What do our reactions to stupidity and ignorance say about us?  If we were as jaded as we both claim to be, would either of us have the wherewithal or even the slightest desire to put pen to paper?  Am I getting close to what you meant by self-inflicted jadedness?

I originally planned to close out this letter with a profound quotation from Alan Watts, but then I realized that would be pathetically typical of me.  Instead, let’s ponder some deep thoughts from the late, great Alan Sherman:

Counting both feet, I have ten toes – they’re not lady toes, they’re men toes – and I keep them as momentoes, for I love them tenderly.  On my face, two eyebrows – they’re not your brows, they’re my brows.  Behind those eyebrows – that’s where you’ll find ME!”

Bow to your overlord: DNA

Just a brief “you should read this” note about Tim Urban’s Wait but Why site (a continual classic) and a series he’s been producing about society.

The Story of Us: Full Series

It takes hours to read, thoroughly, but worth the payoff. He exposes some clever, insightful glimpses into human behavior, couched in a Twinkie-consumable format.

I recommend it.

My personal favorite, a topic I’ve mentioned here before, DNA is our master.

Seven days makes a week

It’s been just over seven days since my encounter with a mad man with a scalpel. Fortunately, I held my Stoic tongue and he only cut me twice — but in a most vulnerable location, one I use to pretty much to move my body in any direction. Gee thanks, doc.

Seven days and today is the first time I feel almost normal. No weird tearing sensation. Nor the six hornets all stinging in unison, three per side. Or the nauseating p-u-l-l of gravity at certain danglely bits. Mind you, I still ache for one of them flat icepacks. But, over all, I can finally imagine life without constant gut-clenching pain.

And to think, this was all quasi-voluntary. Sure, I’d mostly likely suffer in the future from some foolish lifting stunt. But to ask for such agony? I can only say that I’ve completed my “Man’s Cesarean” and look forward to drunken mud-bound tug-o-wars with the troops. (Anybody know any “troops” who need a crippled old programmer?)

What’s your pain level?

Hell, I don’t know, a three, maybe?

Turns out my imagined pain scale placed my number rather low. I considered a one to be a bee sting and a ten to feel like I was cutting off my own left hand with a rusty hacksaw.

Given such a context, yeah, my pain registered in at a three. Well, apparently my tape measure, pulled from too many movies, belied my actual discomfort. My three is their six. Once we aligned our rulers I finally received relief.

Pain is subjective. How long is a string? How deep your depression? How high your elation?

The surgeon showed up and apologised. Surgery doesn’t always run on time. I’m glad mine did, though.

Thanks for you guys’ kind thoughts.