"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Quarters 2010-2011

Colossal, dramatic changes are kicking in the door and suddenly time is very limited. Although I sincerely want to tie all of 2010 together, I haven’t due to a peculiar (and extended) incoherence. Now, I no longer have the luxury of spending days on end attempting to perfectly articulate a detailed play-by-play.

By way of comparison, 2010 was sparsely “written up” relative to ’08 and ’09. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that’s because it was uneventful! After my time with Ray and my sister in California way back in March, in retrospect the year was spent alternately struggling to process and avoid excruciating revelations, conclusions, and connections. The last few months were spent finally reconciling all of them.

I spent most of 2010 comparing it with 2009 which I saw as an assumed apex of this Quest simply because of its collection of positive and dramatic experiences. Between April’s Veggie Bus and September’s meeting of Andre and visit to Port Townsend, 2009 held everything: adventure, intense personal discovery, new friends and, of course, my father’s family--relatives whose existence, until then, was viewed in the sole context of a decades-old maternal myth.

In many ways, I was trying to relive 2009. Once again, I spent June and July in Michigan only to discover, as I’ve described it ,“that well had soured.” Every place I returned in 2010 felt wrong with one notable exception: Brian’s. Interestingly, Brian’s was a place that felt odd in 2009, but it bore massive fruit this year. Apparently, we initially got the year wrong!

Cognitive Quixote 

While at Brian’s, I learned that my little Don Quixote idea was far from an original. In fact, I came to find that it has a psychological cousin named Cognitive Dissonance. While I was introduced to it during that month at Brian’s, I admittedly have not tried to make a full academic study of it because I’m still skeptical of clinical psychology in many ways! However, what I have learned clearly shows that cognitive dissonance and Mr. Quixote are major focuses of study and significant factors in each of our lives.

As I understand it, the basic idea is that we allow ourselves to believe whatever alleviates the anxiety created by holding simultaneous and conflicting thoughts and protects an internalized point of view, including that of ourselves. For example, it seems cognitive dissonance is the Neuronet Highway by which otherwise goodhearted Christians travel to rationalize judging and abandoning their community’s poor as "freeloaders"...despite their Bibles.

People predictably lash out with a vicious indignation when confronted with the idea that maybe, just maybe they subconsciously lie to themselves in order to eliminate these disconnects. It's imperative to remember that this is NOT a conscious process. It’s closer to breathing! While it’s typically easy to identify in others, what IS difficult is pinpointing it in ourselves. I say difficult in the emotional sense; the specific examples are everywhere; socially, this is the garden where religion and political ideology flourish.

How many would survive an honest reconciliation of our private ego/self-image with the raw, unfiltered reality? 

How devastating would the psychological shock be if our cognitive dissonance switches were suddenly flipped off and we were held naked to a mirror? How many could withstand the seeing their true reflection? While that may seem a pretentious question at first glance, I ask with good reason.

Through the exercise of meeting random people and watching, observing, and offering insights into our conversations and experiences, a peculiar thing happened. I've discovered that my insights were rooted in and stemming from myself. Unplugging from the Matrix and interacting with the world as it really is, you can reconnect with the heartbeat of humanity.

That being said, I've only recently come to finally understand the notion of "oneness" that many eastern religions speak of. We each act upon and affect each other. By observing you, I observe myself. By helping her, you help yourself. By encouraging him, you encourage yourself...by tearing them down, you cripple yourself. You don't need a PhD in Karma to understand that, although I was a little slow on the uptake.

Along with New York and intense couple of weeks in Boise, that was my summer. After spending March-October mostly out-of-touch, Chris and I reconnected and spent a couple weeks comparing notes when he joined us for Thanksgiving. While his specifics are different, the subtext of our individual 2010s are stunningly similar. I'll let him spin his own yarn, but this reunion, while lacking in high-wire drama, was quietly remarkable and subtly earth-rattling.

Winding Down?

The coming posts won’t entertain or inspire the typical McCandless Cultist Adventure Reader, but they should clarify, add continuity, and if you have followed with interest over the last three years, I'd think you'd find them relatively intriguing. Although I still enjoy writing, they may also mark the end of my little blog.

I originally intended the first incarnation of my blog to simply replace mass-emails to the handful of people concerned with where I was! At the outset, it never occurred to me that I had an interest in nor aptitude toward writing. That clearly changed with Dennis, when I figured out that the traveling might transcend just myself, and that I had something to say.

Since then, I’ve been compelled to offer my personal experiences, errors and all, as a way of encouraging others to introduce themselves to themselves. I hoped to both embark on and encourage an honest look at how WE wanted OUR life stories to read at the end. I hoped my experience would encourage an honest inventory into what our lives really are and how they align to who we really are and what we really want. Does our reality sing in tune with our internal voice? Somewhere along the way however, the message’s entertainment value took a subtle priority over the voice's message. I had become as concerned with how you receive the melody as the authenticity of lyrics.

That ends now.

I don't have a complete, coherent philosophy or ideology to offer; I also reject that it’s my role to provide it for you! Just as my politics have gone from liberal, to mildly conservative, and back toward liberal, my ideas are always evolving. I have strong opinions, but they're further molded by each new experience. Only the fool preaches an empirical, immobile philosophy; only the bigger fool follows him. These fools are employed in the arts of buying or selling rhetoric and propaganda rather than truth. 

For some folks, Shake n' Bake religions work just fine just as being a cubicle-dwelling cog in a machine is fine for others. Even with concrete answers, as Hermann Hesse wrote in Siddhartha, while knowledge can be conveyed to another, wisdom cannot. It sounds like ridiculous nonsense to a listener without the benefit of the speaker's contextual experience.

This is something expressed in Plato’s Cave Allegory. If the escapee returns to free his comrades from their cave with tales of what’s “out there”, the isolated cave dwellers will ridicule, possibly even kill their would-be rescuer. Rather than embrace a new hopeful paradigm, and due to their own inability to comprehend anything beyond their limited view of The Matrix, they will simply belittle the message and lynch the messenger! I’ve seen the predictable look of bewildered, disdainful mockery in response to my feeble explanations more times than I care to recall. I’m usually expecting the “get a job” cliche’ to follow!

One thing that I DO believe passionately, and that's not changed one iota, is that the reason we cannot simply "become wise through someone else" is because we are designed with the primal need to ask and answer our own questions. We each must learn for ourselves, and thank God! I believe this is the calling disguised-as-disquiet that so many sense, and so few answer. I also believe this to be the nexus of the familiarity some feel toward what I'm doing.

That’s been my winter. How’s yours?