ramble: sacralized identity, life narratives (left/right) FEAR + scaring ourselves existentially/emotionally/experientially

It’s hard to bring myself to write here when I literally have to pull myself away from Edward Snowden interviews, mr.robot cast interviews, anonymous documentaries and subreddits for coders. I know absolutely nothing about hacking but I can’t stop fascinating and obsessing about it.

I’m afraid, while not surprised, that in the past week I have become the worst version of myself. I haven’t been able to get a single shift since Tuesday (I had class on Wednesday) so Thursday and Friday literally consisted of me, in chosen isolation, watching a succession of 45 minute filmed lectures on bpd on youtube, getting high and watching mr.robot and staying up until 4 or 5am reading the mr.robot subreddit (great, imaginative people in there), reading and talking to strangers at the beach, eating repetitive meals of banana ice cream, miso soup with rice noodles, banana ice cream (rinse and repeat) because that is all I have in my house and watching SJW/Feminist fail compilation videos on youtube. If you can’t tell, I really love youtube and I really love weed. What is best is a healthy combination of the two. Fuck, and now that I let myself type all of that out – you see what I mean – in only two days time I have become the worst version of myself.

What constitutes ‘worst’ might you ask. Well, ‘worst’ refers to the way I can spend an entire 48 hours talking to absolutely no one (nearly foreign in the digital age) a part from the guy that works at the dispensary or the ‘dating/confidence (life)coach’ who forced conversation on me for nearly an hour. I am entirely unbothered by this type of existence – transient – losing time – going to bed at 5am and waking up at 2pm but I know it isn’t necessarily good for me. I need something to make me feel productive, I need to feel validated in some sense – real, imagined, abstract or defined – I do not care. I can’t wait for something to change though  – but I don’t really want it to just yet and I’m just I’ll resent myself for passing time in this way when i look bad on it I’ll wish I enjoyed it more – didn’t feel so uncomfortable in the lack of structure and daily demands.

I used to wonder – how the fuck do people just chill? I lived with a masters student for awhile who, while working long hours most days, would often spend entire days in her bed, never leaving, just chilling to the max. I felt nauseous even considering it. And while my version of chill involves a lot more restless wandering around the city and inundating myself with information at every moment, I guess I finally figured out how I ‘chill’. And for completions sake, I suppose ‘chilling’ is the state in which I find myself to be the ‘worst version of myself’ imaginable. I hate stagnation – I admit, I’m far from stagnant even right now – I’m always trying to prove something to myself, there is always a reason, be it delusional or practical, for the way in which I spend my time.

Want to know something interesting I read from our dear from John Haidt today? In distinguishing ‘orthodoxy’ from ‘conservatism’, he paraphrases historian Jerry Muller.

“What makes social and political arguments conservative as opposed to orthodox is that the critique of liberal or progressive arguments takes place on the enlightened ground of the search for human happiness based on the use of reason.”

So Muller actually asserts that modern conservatism is really about creating the best possible society, the one that brings the greatest happiness given the local circumstances. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, is the view that there exists a “transcendent” moral order to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society. For me, reading this was like a little reassurance that I am not so alien from those who raised me and those who I grew up with – we all hold principles of liberty and care close to our hearts, it’s just how we choose to express these values that varies (through experience, moral communities post-high school etc.) I’m unsure why I am so hung-up or even plagued with this ambition to uncover common denominators between people from my home town and me in my current mindset, but, just as I expected, there are answers and reasonable explanations are actually beginning to unfold as anxiety-relieving psychological/political poetry.

Earlier, in the final chapter of the book, Haidt also uses the work of sociologist Christian Smith who agrees with Durkheim in that every social order has at its core something sacred. I wondered then, what is that is held sacred for the left (the estranged political left of the academy – or rather of university students and their allies – the only ‘left’ I can say I have any experience in knowing)? And without much hesitation it was obvious, the core – the sacralized core of the social order of the left is identity. The way in which identity politics have emerged triumphant in the last five years to dictate and police public discourse is honestly astounding. The clout and power of individual identity and the politics in which categories are steeped into can perhaps be rationalized or understood with the knowledge that yes – to some extent – identity has been sacralized. 

Yikes, this post has really gone in all sorts of directions. I will let you know now – there is no tie in – there will be no masterful return to my original tangent about being the ‘worst’ – although the subtext to all this would suggest that the lack of order of this posts acts as further evidence for my claim that I am the worst.

Ugh, god but this chapter is so good. It discusses how life narratives provide a bridge between a developing adolescent self an adult political identity. Life narratives are saturated with morality and while different sets of genes serve as drafts of different minds, it is the various life experiences and paths that lead into different moral subcultures. Obvious stuff of course, but existentially calming to see written concisely with certainty. Fuck, I also need to throw this in here:

So, after “analyzing the DNA of 13,000 Australians, scientists recently found several genes that differed between liberals and conservatives. Most of them related to neurotransmitter functioning, particularly glutamate and serotonin, both of which are involved in the brain’s response to threat and fear. The finding fits well with many more studies that show conservatives reacting more strongly than liberals to signs of danger, including threat of germs and contamination. Other studies have implicated genes related to the receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has long been tied to sensation seeking and openness to experience, which are among the best-established correlates of liberalism. Even though the effects of any single gene are tiny, these findings are important because they illustrate one sort of pathway from genes to politics: the genes (collectively) give some people brains that are more (or less) reactive to threats, and that produce less (or more) pleasure when exposed to novelty, change and new experiences.” [conservatives react more strongly to reminders of death – – – liberals have less need for order, structure and closure.] (paraphrased from p.325 The Righteous Mind)

Reading this, I shudder. More than anyone I know and more than I would like to admit, I am driven by fear. At the same time however, I feel more comfortable when things are changing, unstructured and new. Confusing if I actually felt compelled to situate myself in this externalized, overgeneralized and dichotomized categorical system (liberal-conservative). But the fear thing really struck me. My dad, for as long as I can remember, is mobilized by fear. This works in both good and bad ways. While I am thankful for his paranoia and caution instilling in me, a sense of fear, hesitancy and contemplation towards the unknown – it is also the added element of my unavoidable impulsivity that creates a compounded dissonance. I often do things impulsively while completely drenched in stomach-turning fear and anxiety. Sometimes, I would even chase that which scared me to either expose it for what it is and know it, understand it or simply to feel the intense and bewildering adrenaline imbued  – fear for fears sake. I’m not sure if any of this is making sense but what I’m trying to say is that, while my dad sits in front of Fox News, encapsulated and enraged via a constant stream of fear-mongering – I sit in front of my computer screen reading about the “Bernstein Bears” parallel universe theory and feeling absolutely sick, heart-racing, completely on edge just considering the possibility but unable to stop reading. Maybe it’s good to scare ourselves – existentially, emotionally, experientially (or all of the above).

Alright, I’ll wrap it up. I have two full length documentaries locked and loaded and it’s already 12:30am. I’ll try the new weed I bought today (it’s got like ….a lot of CBD, more than usual??? in it??? apparently really ‘chill’ and doesn’t give anxiety…..) ChEeRZZ!!! ❤



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