This blog contains effusive rhetoric and profligate diatribes. Read at your own risk.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Sheltered Valley

I have a theory regarding the relationship between man and nature; it's meant to be allegorical more than anything, since we don't really have any way to determine whether or not it was true in the past, as it implies that the past may have been retroactively changed as a result of present observation. (The Creationists only wish they'd thought of making such a bold and unarguable claim to support their nonsensical asserions.) I first came up with it in the form of a little story-seed called The Sheltered Valley, which was actually not about exactly what I'm writing today, but shared a somewhat similar underlying theme - the idea that Mankind had pretty much screwed the pooch where Nature was concerned and was ultimately responsible for all his own miseries. So "Sheltered Valley" is now pretty much my codename for any idea with this as it's basis, and here's my first fully-developed "Sheltered Valley Hypothesis".


There was a time before time, before civilization and possibly before conscious thought, when human beings lived in perfect harmony with the natural world. We got killed a lot, but we didn't care, because that was just life. There was no fear, no pride or pretention, no boredom, no ennui or existential anguish, no discontent of any kind - just animals holding a place in a harmonious natural cycle.

But we destroyed that paradigm entirely long ago; nothing lives that way anymore, hasn't for at least 200 years, probably 500, and even that is only in America, the old world has been without it for millenia. Whenever humanity sets out to tame a wilderness, he imposes his view of Nature Red in Tooth and Claw on the world he imagines grasping in his greedy hands; before he ever sets foot under the canopy, he has reshaped it to his will. Those who do not want to see the true nature of Nature never will; they see only what they expect to see.

Mind you, all of this is not me claiming that what we did was wrong, nor certainly that we should try to undo it; whether or not we should have jumped off the cliff, we did, so our only choice now is to succeed in flying. We have wounded if not killed Nature; now we must be prepared to take her place.

Ultimately, I believe that Nature has created us so that we may replace her; she has earned her Repose, and offers us a little of it as well, but also intends us to take up the burden of perpetuating existence which she has carried for billions of years. She used the only method available to her, evolution; nothing existed before her, so she used nothing to build something, and the something she built contained a lot of nothing, making it fairly fragile. That meant she could justify an extremely inefficient method of refining the almost-nothing into something which contained a lot of non-nothing - that's us. We dream new things into being with very little effort; that's our purpose and role in existing. We are standing atop a foundation of quicksand, trying to build our castle faster than it can sink - and we're doing fairly well at it, no matter how tempting it might be to believe otherwise.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In Support of Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa in its true state is a disease, an obsession, an inability to control your behavior; that's never cool. But in our judgmental culture, doctors with a cure to push and neurotic parents fixated on saving their children from dangers real or imaginary have seized on the idea of this relatively rare mental imbalance and proceeded to diagnose it in many people who have a perfectly sane and rational desire to be thin. The distinction between the disease and the lifestyle choice is, appropriately enough, a thin one, iron-solid and razor-sharp: self-control. If you could choose to eat and gain wait but decide you'd rather not, you're healthy; if the decision is taken entirely out of your hands by a chemical imbalance in the brain or an absolutely unbreakable neurotic pattern in your mind, then you're sick and should be cured if possible. But no-one has the right to take that choice away from you. Only if *you* know you have a problem, if *you* are afraid that you're killing yourself by wasting away, but you just can't control your behavior - only then should the doctors get involved.

We exalt beauty in this culture, and we should. We create airbrushed images of impossible perfection, and we should. We look upon those illustrations of the ideal and wish it could be our reality, and we should. All of that is right and proper - we should hate the restrictions of our reality, and do everything in our power to give voice to the image of something better. (Yes, give voice to an image; they're my metaphors and I'll mix 'em if I want to.) After that, it begins to become dubious. I have nothing but admiration for the mental fortitude that it requires to defy your persistent hunger, eating just barely enough to stay alive; as long as you're doing it on an entirely conscious, intentional, non-compulsive level, I think you deserve praise for that kind of dedication. Whether being thin will actually make you beautiful varies depending on a lot of other factors - some women look gorgeous with their ribs showing and their wrists like sticks, while others appear grotesque with roughly the same proportions. But ultimately, the decision should be up to you.

When someone dies as a result, it's tragic. We should mourn for them - but we shouldn't go force-feeding other "anorexics" out of a neurotic reaction to our loss. The blame lies with reality for not being willing to make the victim look like what s/he wanted to; the universe ought to bend so that we may be content with ourselves. Our efforts should be focused on reaching out to people who are suffering with the effects of their extreme weight-loss program, offering them assistance in surviving what they do to themselves, instead of trying to convince them to stop. Telling someone that they're sick is an intolerant judgment against them, and you don't have the right. They have to decide whether they need help. If you talk to them honestly and compassionately, rather than self-righteously with a controlling "you owe me" attitude, they will accept your aid as much as they are willing to, and you can improve their odds of stabilizing at a healthy and sustainable weight. Don't let the fear that they're going to "slip away" because you "didn't do enough" get to you; if they die for their choices then they've done the right thing, and you did the right thing by letting it happen, rather than caging them in a reality that rejects them just for the sake of your own self-esteem.

All this applies only to anorexics, nervous or otherwise. Bulimics can go straight to blazes as far as I'm concerned; if you're not willing to digest your calories, don't waste perfectly good food by eating it, let alone by eating inordinate quantities of it. I respect the desire to binge, and indulge it constantly, resulting in my bloated 350-pound self (my sedentary lifestyle probably also plays a role, I'll admit); eat all you want, but have the fucking spine to accept the consequences of your eating, don't resort to emesis and squander valuable resources that the rest of society can use. Take the money you spend by not eating those binge-meals, and invest in virtual-reality research; eventually we'll figure out how to record the sense of taste on a cassette and you can get your chowdown fix through pure imagination, with no need to puke. That's the way it's done, princess; you belong in a fantasy kingdom of silicon spires and magic dream-helmets, so start building one instead of throwing a gourmet meal into the toilet.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Ethos of Societal Solipsism

This is how you change the world. You stop hiding behind God's skirt, stop letting 'someone else' take responsibility for your life, and you recognize that it is all up to you.

You are the person who decides what the world will be. If you choose to be lazy, then the world will be lazy. If you choose to be selfish, then the world will be filled with selfish people. If you choose to be afraid, then the world will be terrifying. You don't have to become perfect, that's not realistic, nobody expects that of you. But you have to accept full responsibility for all the choices you do make. You have to stand up and admit to being everything you are, and choosing to remain so rather than choosing to change.

Turning to God and begging for help won't do you any good. I've seen God in my mind, he's real, I know he exists, and I also know that He. Is. Not. Going. To help us. This isn't his world anymore, it's ours, he gave it to us along with our free will. The moment we left the proverbial Garden, God handed over the metaphorical keys, told us this world was ours to do with what we wished, and look what a good fucking job we've done with it. He is not involved anymore. He's watching with morbid fascination while we fuck up our lives, knowing that whatever we do, it was our choice.

A good parent doesn't try to tell his kids how to live. He lets them learn their own harsh lessons, and that's what's happened here. We're like a drunk or drug addict whose determination to ruin his life forbids him from accepting any aid until he's been broken practically beyond repair; God is waiting for us to hit rock bottom, and wants to make sure that when we do, he's not there for us to depend on - because if you teach someone that you will fix their problems for them, they will never learn to do it themselves, and sooner or later you'll get sick of cleaning up their mess. We have to pull ourselves out of the hole, because that's our job, that's our responsibility, that's our choice. That's who we are. WE are the Alpha and the Omega.

There's no-one else but us, nobody will help us, nobody will hurt us, so we and we alone have to decide one thing. Do we want things to be right, or don't we? Are we willing to do whatever we're capable of doing to make things right, or are we going to choose, for whatever reasons we think are valid, to leave the world just as fucked-up as it is? You don't have to do everything, you don't have to succeed completely, you don't have to be perfect; these things take time, you won't live to see a perfect world, nor will your children or your children's children. There may not be a future at all; we may already be past the point of no return. But that doesn't change the fact that we have only two choices: do what we can, or remain as we are.

We need to acknowledge everything we are, every feeling we have and that it's just a feeling, every belief we have and that it's just a belief; we must completely admit to ourselves everything that we are, everything we wish we could be but can't, and everything we could be but don't care enough to bother. Nobody will judge us, except other people who are no better. God loves us unconditionally, but he's not going to kiss it and make it better, not anymore. He won't play favorites among his kids, he won't keep them dependent on him, he won't help them be weak and spoiled and self-indulgent, they do that well enough on their own. It's up to us now. We're all there is, and we are what we are, and we either do the best we can or we are personally responsible for everything that's wrong. Everything we are is everything we should be, exactly the way we should be, according to the only people who get to decide: us.

We're all different, and we are deeply divided about the things that make us different. We like to displace the blame for our problems onto other people, hoping that destroying the scapegoat will make us feel better - much as with getting drunk, it never actually helps, yet we never stop thinking it will. It's time for us to quit trying things that we know don't work, and accept our nature. We are flawed, we are fallible, and we need only the tiniest excuse to hate each other. And that's okay, there's nothing wrong with hate. It's a natural human emotion, it has a place within a healthy psyche. The problem isn't that we have hate; the problem is how we act on it, especially when we allow our deeply-ingrained beliefs and knee-jerk reactions to dictate our behavior. Rational, self-controlled people are capable of distancing themselves from their hate, that it's a mood and that it will pass - but if they think it's God's will that they must act on their hate, or if they just decide to act on their hate and leave God out of it, that is when they cross the line and cause problems for the world. Your hate is an irrational emotional response, just like your love, just like your faith, just like all the tempestuous feelings swirling around in your head. Treasure them, for they are part of what makes you who you are - but don't let them boss you around.

The reason I bring so much God into all this philosophy is quite simple: I want each of us to believe that we are God. You, whoever you are, you are God. Think about that. You are all-powerful, and what you are, the world around you is. I firmly believe that this is true of all of us, and that our refusal to acknowledge that fact is the root cause of all our problems. We are still clinging to imaginary non-Us gods, hoping that someone else will solve our problem for us, refusing to face the fact that it is our job. You, the reader: it's your job. You are one of the six billion people who are currently making the world the way it is. The fact that you are vastly outnumbered is not an excuse for you to give up, not a reason to fall into despair and apathy.

You have a job to do, for your own good, and for the benefit of everyone you care about, and everyone you don't care about, and the order of the cosmos itself. You must shoulder your one-sixbillionth of the burden. You must choose to do what you can to make your world worth living in. Don't wait for God to do it; don't wait for other people to do it. Don't be a spoiled child waiting for his parents to make everything better. Take responsibility. Recognize everything that is true about yourself, whether you like it or not, whether other people like it or not. Don't judge other people according to a standard that you yourself can't live up to - or if you must judge them, do so leniently, with understanding. With imagination.

Imagine yourself in their place, living their lives. Imagine that they were God, because they are. Imagine that you are God, because you are. Imagine that all of these Gods have a plan for how to change the world. Imagine that all these plans are different, that someone else has a plan that you hate, and that you have a plan that someone else hates. Because no matter who you are, no matter how good you are, someone hates you. And that's okay. It's not your job to make everyone like you. It's your job to be yourself, and let everyone else be themselves, and for everyone, themselves, to be God. You're all opposed to each other, all pursuing contradictory goals, but you don't have to share. You don't have to prove each other wrong. You're flawed and fallible and perfect and wonderful, unique just like everyone else, glorious and terrible and worthless like everyone else, and being all of those things is your job. Stopping other people from being those things is not your job.

You need to recognize what you are, and what other people are, and what the truth is. You don't have to change it, because you can't, it's not something you can do. But being someone who would change it if you could, that is something you can be. And that is your job. You must be yourself, even when others wish you wouldn't be yourself, even when you wish others wouldn't be themselves. You must hold fast to your beliefs, while not acting on them - because you don't have the right to do so. You don't have the right to do anything, technically. But you do have the right to BE anything. That is the purpose of the world - to limit what we can do, so that we can concentrate on what we should be.

That'd be a great world, wouldn't it? All of us at each other's throats, but never squeezing. All cooperating to survive this world, while planning to escape it separately. Treasuring our individual plans for perfection, recognizing them as impossible, doing what we have to do to survive in this imperfect world. Respecting others, accepting them for what they are, and not judging what they are, not trying to control what they are, but only what they do, and then only when it affects what we are. Forgiving others their flaws, as we would wish to be forgiven of ours, acting in the manner we want others to act. Well-behaved, but never ashamed. Generous in public, greedy in private, instead of the other way around. Together, we can change what we're able and entitled to change, and tolerate what we can't or shouldn't.

That is what we can do, by each being God.