|Because of the recent publication of my article on Miniature Truths, and the fact that my trip to Belize gave me time, at last, to think, I decided to write a series of occasional articles on miniature truths. Note that such truths aren’t necessarily self-evident — we live in such a complex world, with such complicated man-made systems, that what might be self-evident to a child, or an alien visitor, will not be so to someone living in the midst of modern society.
I’ve already written about a few miniature truths that have emerged for me after a lot of thought and a lot of fortuitous experience; most of them are what I’ve learned about human nature in trying to make the world a better place:
During my pilgrimage to Belize, I came up with two more miniature truths. Here’s the first of them:
When I was a child, I was wild. Not in the sense of being unmanageable — I was quite attentive back then. Wild in the sense of uncivilized, raw, open, unrepressed, natural. I am told I was constantly taking my clothes off, not to show off but because I found them confining, unnatural, and saw nothing embarrassing about nudity.
I was fearless (I did a photoshoot as a baby, hamming it up for the camera, that appeared on the front page of the local newspaper), I was imaginative (too much so for my neighbourhood friends, who couldn’t follow the games I invented), affectionate (my favourite game as soon as I could walk was ‘kissing tag’, since most of the kids my age in the neighbourhood were girls). Back then I struggled with communication (I didn’t learn to write reasonably well until my late teens, read little until then, and was nervous singing (I was a pretty good boy soprano) and talking in crowds.
And then all the trappings of civilization came rushing in — the cruel games kids play, the preference for cute, athletic, clever, funny, well-coordinated friends (I got pretty gangly-looking as I aged, my voice broke so my singing teacher lost interest in me, and I was terribly coordinated — I couldn’t swim or dance and my penmanship was illegible. I began to acquire a lot of the fears, doubts, and prejudices of the groups I desperately wanted to belong to, which were only made worse as my advances were rebuffed). I became a loner, and not even a ‘smart’ one.
By the end of high school, I’d acquired some talents that were popular, became a scholar, and regained my self-esteem in spades. But in the process, and even since then, I’ve picked up a lot of ‘stuff’ that isn’t me. I’ve become, in many respects, “everybody-else”.
My days are now terribly busy, even without family responsibilities to look after. My job and my book both have a lot of self-imposed responsibility, that I took on willingly and knowingly, because they’re consistent with my passion for supporting Natural Entrepreneurs and building caring communities working to make the world a better place. But it’s slow going and time consuming. My blog carries with it the responsibility to write useful stuff, often, and to at least try to respond to readers’ comments. Looking at a backlog of over 100 e-mails and months of unanswered comments (not to mention an obsolete blogroll and table of contents, that will take weeks of work to update) I can only groan at the workload that lies ahead of me.
In an article a month ago I wrote about how I thought I should ideally spend each day:
In fact, I’m not getting enough time for sleep, exercise, play, meaningful conversation, reflection, creation or action. Why? Because my life is full of time spent dealing with all the commitments I’ve taken on. And because I’m spreading myself way too thin, taking on too much. I keep forgetting how to say no. My twelve suggestions for making more time for what’s important in that earlier article just aren’t working. I suspect I’m caught up in Pollard’s Law myself, procrastinating on doing things that are important (and which I mostly really want to do) but that are time- and energy-consuming, in favour of things that are easy, undemanding.
But underneath all that, I think, is this growing sense that I’m not myself. The real, authentic me would not take on commitments that would be unreasonable and tedious to discharge. The real, authentic me would not procrastinate. The real, authentic me would not find himself fretting about my work backlog, or watching TV because I’m just too tired to do anything else.
So if (as I claim above) things are the way they are for a reason, what is the reason for this? How did I become “everybody else” and stop being “nobody but myself”, as cummings put it? I think it may be because, like most people, I respond to attention and appreciation, and love — and when I get it I agree to do almost anything to keep it coming. With love such a scarce commodity in our terrible world, is there anything we won’t do for it, including becoming “everybody else”?
I think this is why I’m such a visceral believer in polyamorism, even though I haven’t been able to make the argument for it very articulately. If I felt, as a did as a young child, that I was surrounded by unqualified love, that it was everywhere and eternal, would I then stop taking on commitments I don’t want and can’t keep? Would I then stop changing myself into what I’m not, adding all this gunk that isn’t me, just to nurture a scarce and uncertain commodity that is naturally abundant?
Is the lack of love, in family, in community, everywhere, what’s behind the loneliness, the desperation, the anomie that we see everywhere in our society, which becomes pathology and violence and misery and cruelty?
I suspect the gunk we accumulate is mostly protective, the stuff of fear and uncertainty and anxiety over the potential loss of intimate connection, which we all need to survive.
It’s not yet an intention, because I’m not sure I can do it, but I’m going to start working to be fearless about the loss of attention, appreciation, and love, to believe that it can be abundant, and to start saying no to things that are not really important to me, regardless of the consequences. And to do fewer things, the things I’m really good at (imagining possibilities, and writing) better, and exclusively. Perhaps in so doing I can become, for the first time in my life, a model — of courage, of generosity, of authenticity, of getting important things done.
And in so doing, perhaps I can become, as I was as a young child, raw, naked, wild. Nobody but myself.
I love, and read, all your comments, but I can’t promise to respond to them. If you want to chat, send me your GMail address and I’ll schedulea time to GTalk with you in real time..
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Dying of Despair
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What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
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Complexity and Collapse
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A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
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A Better Way to Work
Ask Yourself This
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May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
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A Harvest of Myths
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The Trouble With Stories
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Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
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We Make Zero
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If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
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The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
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Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
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The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
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Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
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Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
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A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
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Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
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