Reflections

Happy New Year…? Really?!

Am I the only one who feels reluctance to voice those words this year? Am I the only one who believes that uttering such sentiments is tantamount to inviting people to indulge in fantasy while abandoning reality?

I mean, it’s not that I don’t want good things to happen to people, because I certainly do. It’s more that I sense that such “good things” as health, prosperity and peace are unattainable at this time. And while it’s true that I said the obligatory greetings at midnight between December 31st and January 1st, even I could not miss the sarcasm or irony in my tone as I did so.

I have avoided posting (or responding to) Facebook greetings about the new year for the most part. And when I felt it was necessary, I have acknowledged them with “likes” rather than reciprocity; anything more would feel too insincere. It just doesn’t seem like a happy new year…

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my innate honesty coming out. I’m not depressed, nor do I wish to trigger others’ anxieties, but all of my instincts rail against the false hope implied in that traditional greeting.

***. ***. ***

I avoid the news. I’ve cut myself off from anyone’s supposedly factual presentation of “what’s happening now.” I did so because… well, I guess if I have to explain why, then you likely would disagree with my reasoning, so never mind. The point is, when I feel compelled to investigate “what’s happening out there (as opposed to in here),” I tend to read opinion pieces instead. At least they’re honest about being opinions (mostly), and if I read enough opposing opinions, I can sometimes get a sense of what “facts” might have triggered them, somewhere in between their interpretations of events.

So today I got up early enough to read several such opposing opinions, and thought now might be a good time to catch up on the world my body is inhabiting.

I think that might have been a mistake…

Because I’m truly not sure what reality I tagged into. And I’m not convinced anyone else I read knows either, though they don’t seem at all concerned with their skewed points of view. I just couldn’t make sense of anything I read!

There were the Earth-friendly writers (usually liberal leaning, if not outright left wing extremists) touting Trump as the destroyer of the Cabal…?! Umm… is this the same Trump who’s been on a direct “destroy the environment to eke out a few more pennies of profit” kick for decades?

Or the self-declared leftist revolutionaries questioning why openly right wing conservatives are mysteriously dying, supporting the alt-right’s declaration of conspiracies against them…?! Umm… really?!

There are the Evangelicals finally admitting that their Bible prophesies a non-believer who would become king, restoring their patriarchal, authoritarian rule of law…?! “Of course Trump is a non-believer, but we wouldn’t want him any other way! Only a non-believer could support our [ridiculous, restrictive, murderous] agenda!”

There are high-ranking (former) military and government officials openly, and publicly, calling on our military to stage a coup, while our rank and file members turn out in droves (against military rules) in Trump supporting paraphernalia, appearing to be his greatest fans…! All while not getting paid?! Really?!

And then there’s the truly delusional ones. You know the hype. “We’ve finally turned the corner! So many people have evolved enough that true peace is right around the corner!” Really? Where?

Meanwhile, in my city, there were three murders already, before New Year’s Day was officially over – a shooting, a stabbing, and a home invasion resulting in a fatality (home dweller, not thief, of course). And these are all “poor on poor” crimes, regardless of color, religion, immigration status, or sexual orientation…

I don’t know… Maybe I am depressed after all. But “happy new year”?

Hardly…

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Conversations, Reflections, Visions

Home…

I was out of form and exploring the lack of boundaries I felt, enchanted by the possibilities taking shape. I had reached out to an’Other I know very well, seeking connection in this formless state. But she hadn’t answered my call or responded in any way, and I knew time had passed in my world. So I reached out once again, more determined now to discover why she was avoiding me…

I felt my hand solidify, just a bit, as it touched something real somewhere, so I fed a bit more attention to it, and grasped at the object I’d found. Pulling it toward me with a jerk and a wish, I prepared to ask questions of my missing friend…

But the hand that emerged was not hers at all. It was large, and tattooed, and tinted slightly blue. I glanced up, quite startled, as the body came through – a tattooed man I’d never met, who stood there grinning like a fool. Acting like he’d achieved something wondrous that day, leaving me disoriented, and shy, with this stranger I’d nabbed…

“Uhh… you’re not Lea,” I pointed out, to cover my shame.

“Ummm… no,” he responded, though his grin never faded.

“Do I know you?,” I asked, unsure of myself. “Or should I?”

“‘Should’ is a word I don’t like to use; it’s weighted heavily with expectations, and leads too often to excuses.”

“Which doesn’t answer my question at all,” I pointed out. “So, tell me, my friend, who are you? And why are you here?”

“You brought me here. Quite insistently, I might add,” he answered with a wink, lifting our still joined hands into my field of vision.

It was then that I realized I was nothing more than mist, with a hand solidly attached to his. And as we moved silently across a sandy land, I thought to look back to see where we’d been. His footsteps were clear in the sandy soil, but my path was marked by a series of puddles. Remembering suddenly I was water without form, I focused more strongly on the hand that I held.

As I did so, a body began to take shape around me – lithe and tall and blue as a lake…

“You’re not even human!,” I suddenly exclaimed, aware in that moment of the size of the moon. For night was falling in that unfamiliar place, and the moon was rising to take her natural space. But she was huge, and purplish blue, and the stars that surrounded and worshipped her were all new…

“Neither are you,” he whispered close to my ear, and suddenly I knew it was true…

“I am now,” I said sadly. “Or mostly, anyway. And I have been for a very long time…”

***

“Welcome home, Lost One,” he continued softly. “You have been missed.”

Glancing around at the barren landscape, I felt bewildered. “But what happened here?,” I asked. “I don’t remember any of this…”

And suddenly a great noise arose, directly in front of us, as a crowd of like others came running to join us…

“You found her!,” exclaimed an old woman, leaning heavily upon a small child, while others babbled in laughter and other joyous sounds…

“More like she found me,” he reacted honestly, as our contact was broken by the crowd embracing me…

I was loved here. Completely. And joyously. And freely. And tears of happiness flowed easily from me. My heart felt full for the first time in forever, and I let it burst free to enjoy this phenomenon.

And as tears fell from eyes that were never quite dry, I noticed the very landscape around me had shifted. For now things were growing in the desert of before, becoming lush forest in the non-time we wore. And when I looked back at our footprints once more, I saw flowers springing from puddles where I had stepped before…

Glancing back at the tattooed man, I noticed his smile again. Only this time I felt it within me as well… He took my hands in his, looked deep into me, and spoke gently to the deepest sense of my being…

“As I said, you’ve been missed… Welcome home, Le-hAn-Dre-Elise…”

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Essay

Ignorance May Be Bliss…

but ignorance of how ignorant we are may be causing much of our conflict…

I just read an interesting article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It describes a common form of confirmation bias in which it isn’t so much what we don’t know that is the problem, but the overestimation of what we think we do know that is… That made an incredible amount of sense to me.

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of confirmation bias to one extent or another. I know I am. Whether it’s in our perceptive bias (selective perception that primarily notices what we expect to find), our cognitive bias (more readily accepting as “fact” what we already believe to be true), or emotional bias (interpreting events to fit our current mood), we all shape reality according to pre-conceived notions. It’s simply how we are constructed. Our brains make connections based on connections already established; if it fits, it sticks. But what happens when you don’t know that you don’t know something? Worse yet, you don’t actually know something you think you do?!

Chaos rules…

How many others here have found themselves (recently!) shaking their head in bewilderment at something someone else said or did? I don’t mean simple confusion, or disbelief, but a deep-down, profound sense of wtf?! I can hear your thoughts here as clearly as my own, that moment when your inner dialogue sounds like this:

“Really?! Like seriously?! You didn’t just [say/do] that, did you?!”

The actions of the person we are interacting with are simply incomprehensible to us! We cannot even imagine…

THAT moment is a Dunning-Kruger moment… Either the person we are dealing with is downright delusional about reality, or we are. Either way, someone truly doesn’t grasp their own ignorance about the matter at hand.

I know I’m guilty of being on both sides of that equation. I recently heard myself “lecturing” my co-workers about something I strongly believed to be true. I sensed the resistance of at least one in the room, though she chose not to challenge me. The others all radiated validation my way, except one who chose to question my biases. It was then I heard myself admit, “of course, these are all just my opinion; there is no logical reason for you to accept them as anything else. I know I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but that’s just the confidence with which I express all my viewpoints you hear. I could be wrong. And if you can show me where I’m wrong, I’m more than willing to listen…”

The conversation moved on to other things after that. But that memory stuck with me. “Arrogance” is a word often used to describe me, and I can’t honestly deny it, though I would prefer to mute it. More like confident in my intelligence, my ability to grasp both abstract and actual “truths,” and make reasonable, sensible connections between them. But I understand that my basic premises may be wrong, that my intellectual bias may be leading me astray, that I may not have my “facts” straight at all. But to have to add that qualification to every “point” I make in a discussion makes any such debate cumbersome at best, pointless at worst. For how can we “learn” anything, if every sentence we utter begins with “I may not know what I’m talking about, but…”

Much better, in my opinion, to have someone challenge my assertions, point out where I’ve led myself astray. If your facts, reason, logic, or bias makes more sense after questioning, then I have no problem adjusting my point of view to be more in alignment with yours; I am quite capable of admitting I am “wrong” and you are “right.”

But if no one ever challenges me…? Or if those who do have nothing more to offer than insults and insistence on their own point of view, regardless of any contradictions or alternative ideas I might challenge them with…?

Then no true exchange of views, no “learning,” is possible. Right? Or am I missing something obvious here? Lol!

I’m not sure what the solution might be. I’m not even sure a solution exists! I can’t actually think for someone else, any more than I can make decisions about what might be best for them. But I can better discipline myself, and my own thought patterns. And I think it’s time to make a conscious effort to do so.

So, for a time anyway, I’m going to make a effort to add those annoying, cumbersome qualifiers to any discussion I have about “reality.” Maybe I won’t say them out loud all the time (since some already resent the number of words I use to express my point of view – lol!), but to myself, at least. While conversing with these people who make me want to tear my hair out in frustration, I will continuously repeat the mantra:

Ignorance may be bliss, but ignorance of my ignorance is not going to exacerbate this!

Or, in simpler, less verbiose terms…

I could be wrong here…

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Essay, Reflections

A Schizophrenic’s Guide to Navigating Through “Alternative Facts”

NOTE (TRIGGER WARNING): this post is intended as satire, for those unsure how to react, but like most satire, it is firmly founded on kernels of truth…  I only mention this because I know that many who follow this blog (whether they read its content regularly or not) are, or have in the past, dealt intimately with mental illness.  I am NOT mocking you, or your struggles; rather I am mocking a world where such “illness” has become the “norm” now…

You know, given the state of the world these days, I’ve discovered that many of my past ramblings have taken on new context.  I mean, “What is Real?” after all?  Are there still baseline, foundational “facts” to support a shared reality?  Are we still living in a consensually constructed world with recognizable, even “provable” laws existing independently of (or in spite of) individuals’ preferences?

I keep hearing the musical intro from Rod Sterling’s (or is it Serling now?) Twilight Zone running through my head, as every day brings new disillusionment to light.  What with the White House and their followers’ reliance upon “alternative facts” to explain away their disappointments, and the current onslaught of diametrically opposed “fake news” stories, coupled with a rousing call for “fact checking” everyone and everything (still with no agreements, by the way), it would appear that “reality” has become quite malleable and personal.  And no two versions of it are quite the same…

So…  Acknowledging this state of uncertainty as the new “norm,” I’ve decided to offer you all the “wisdom” of my experience as a functional schizophrenic in a formerly consensus based reality.  My qualifications are easy to fact check (if you know where to look), as I was diagnosed a “paranoid” schizophrenic some 37 years ago or so, and have been living side-by-side with “sane” people in society (whether they knew it or not) for all that time, institution and medication free for the last 32 years of it or so.

I know what it is to have “weird” experiences, to sense shifts in reality that no one else seems to notice, to feel ungrounded and free flowing in a world that prides itself on its gravity and solid structures.  I understand the sudden panic that threatens when the people around you are discussing something seriously, all in alignment, and everything within you cries out “what the f**k are they talking about?!  Do they honestly believe what they’re saying?!”  I have felt that deep sense of disorientation that occurs when something “not right” happens, or keeps happening, and you can’t help but wonder if you’re dreaming it all…

And yes, I know the pressures of trying to “fit in,” of being the proverbial round peg trying to get comfortable in a square hole (this version more accurately describes my experience than the traditional analogy).  Because I have no trouble pretending to be “normal,” most of the time anyway, but it becomes so uncomfortable over the long run, that I frequently revert to my own ways, just to alleviate the bruising that occurs getting banged around in an irrational, unfriendly reality.  And I certainly know the frustration that happens when you try to convince others of your truth, when they are neither interested in, nor willing to consider, a different perspective.  (There’s a reason schizophrenics get violent, and most often it is borne of this very frustration, and the labels the “norms” impose on us to explain our insistence in defending our point of view; think “paranoia” here.)

So…  Please accept the following guidelines (yes – suggestions, not demands) in the spirit in which they are offered: as an attempt to promote peaceful interactions in a world where no one can agree on the simplest or most basic “facts” defining “reality.”

Guideline #1:  There are no such things as facts…

Let’s be real here, friends.  Facts are, by definition, data that is observed, measured, quantified and verified; in essence they are empirically based truths.  But even someone with the most crude understanding of quantum mechanics (like myself) knows that the mere act of observing anything alters it, even creates it.  Therefore, there logically can be no “true facts,” only biased, expectation-driven observations that amount to little more than opinion.  Accept that, and some of your cognitive dissonance should ease…

Guideline #2:  Don’t argue opinions!

Opinions are based on belief, and belief requires no proof.  Therefore, no proof exists that can alter someone else’s opinion.  It’s simple, really.  Accept that each of us lives in our own version of reality, and that, while some overlap (shared beliefs) are to be expected and exploited, it is neither necessary, nor helpful, to try to force expansion of that overlap; identify the commonalities and focus on those.

Example:  Try commenting on the weather when first engaging someone else, or the color of the sky (“wow, that’s the bluest sky, I think I’ve ever seen!”)  Then watch for reactions.  If the person agrees, feel free to move the conversation forward, in slow, testing steps.  If they look around, confused, or stare at you like you have two heads, wish them a good day and move on; you clearly do not share enough reality overlap to converse!  Feel free to move on at any point in the conversation where your realities begin to substantially diverge; it is the kindest and “sanest” thing you can do.

Guideline #3:  Flexibility and balance are going to prove much more useful to you than strength; work on developing them.

Remember that your reality is yours; own it but don’t bemoan it.  The same is true of everyone else.  To maintain a sense of sanity in a world where no two realities overlap completely, you must be able to dance and dodge effectively.  You can actually learn a lot from listening to Others’ versions, but only if you retain your sense of self.  It’s a balancing act.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this: Insistence breeds Conviction which leads to Resistance, the hallmark of Affliction, the spawn of Conflict(tion? – lol!)…  In other words, stubbornness creates unnecessary conflict (see Guidelines #1 and #2)…

Guideline #4: Value is defined by usefulness rather than “right-ness”…

In a world where reality shifts and founders, and consensus leaches away more each day, the very concept of “right” and “wrong” alters.  Keep in mind that these people doing or saying incomprehensible (to you) things are NOT sharing the same reality as you; that very incomprehensibilty tells you that.  Take comfort in that knowledge.  And understand that there is still some value to be had in observing and/or interacting with them.

Because our realities are self-defined, it is easy to trap ourselves, to get stuck in a self-perpetuating loop.  Allowing yourself to be open to other possibilities (available only by interacting with Others), gives you opportunities to devise new pathways and understandings.  These are necessary to grow your reality in new directions.  Unless, of course, you prefer to just keep spinning that hamster wheel of yours…

Guideline #5: The absolutely most important tool in your toolbox is a sense of humor!

Illusion occurs when you are convinced that something is “real” when it isn’t, even for you.  Delusion is what everyone else believes to be true when it doesn’t coincide with your own point of view.  So when someone accuses you of being delusional, it is most likely true (no need to argue about it – see Guideline #2).  But that accusation is all the “proof” you need that they are as delusional as you!

Even two (or more) diagnosed schizophrenics cannot understand each other’s delusions; what we can do is be kind to each other, listen to each other’s point of view, and celebrate the uniqueness of our personal experiences.

Often times, I’ve found, the very best medicine is a good laugh, not in mockery of others, but in a shared understanding of the irony and absurdity of trying to co-exist in a world where we cannot agree on the simplest of observations.  But that truly is the beauty of this existence in the end; so many possibilities to explore, so limited our time to do so.  Thank goodness there are so many Others to explore the paths I cannot travel myself!

That is how we help each other – love and respect.  Nothing else truly matters in the end, as none of it is factually real after all…

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