Altruism & unabashed abstraction
it’s an unspeakable hour of the morning and i have woken to catch the early AM ferry from saltspring to vancouver. It’s a milkrun so it will allow me a good 3 hours to get some of the jumbled thoughts in order. I have to drive to Nelson today and i probably wont make it there until 10pm or later so i’m looking at a long day of being alone with my thoughts, as will be the drill for the next few months as i hunker down for a partnerless winter in a snowy interior bc town. It actually feels, like the latesummer/fall has officially ended, the rain is setting in on the coast and i’m about to drive that transition into the snow which i love so much, but every year i’m not sure if i’m ready for. This has been a superlative adventure on the island, with my partner of four years, staying in my parents ultra beautiful retirement house overlooking the ocean, a bay full of eagles, swans, and all other manner of marine life. We’ve spent the last two weeks eating good food, watching the skies, walking in the last of falls leaves and avoiding the reality that she will head to Toronto for the winter, leaving me to snowboard and work. It will be a long stretch to be without her, as we have become such continuous companions on this path. She grounds me out, makes things beautiful, reminds me to eat and to take things less seriously. She’s one of the bravest people i know, actually, and you may not suspect it from the gentle unassuming outer appearance. She’s a pathological altruist. We don’t have kids so our lives are almost completely our own, a fact that leaves a lot of freedom, but also a dangerous ability to let life get existentially abstract.
let me explain, or rather, let me make an observation about adult life not being a parent. Parenting seems to make people into willing (or unwilling) altruists as they stop living wholly for themselves. You watch your friends with kids have their lives owned by their kids’ schedules, their emotions, their bodily functions, health food, daily activities and general behaviour. From the outside, this looks truly intense, even though i love kids and am exceptionally good with them (have been my whole life). this parenting lifestyle seems to have a truly defined sense of purpose that cannot be turned away from when you are tired, grumpy, or simply not in the mood. Kids are a non-stop attention magnet, but also a way of providing a reason for existence, which does get hard to fathom when days flow in an nonstop motion of emails, coffees and social networking feeds.
my life has been pretty unstructured for the past decade, even though there’s a structure put in place by myself which i continually tell myself is of some kind of higher order or Way. When i look back on it, sometimes this Way, has simply been my own interpretation of destiny, fate, free will and choice, whatever you call it, since i stopped working at real jobs this has been my philosophical stance on how life works. A little bit of predestined and past life potential mixed in with a healthy skepticism about everything. Life’s purpose still eludes me, but for the most part i have not compromised my morality or ethics with work, generally taking only projects which fall into my vision for a better world. i have long been a proponent of conscious evolution and i like to think that i practice it in my choice making.
I suppose this is a subjective notion: evolution, which implies a “getting better” optimism. Truth is, these days, the world has plunged into such a state of paradoxical absurdity that it is hard to have any sort of stabilized subjective viewpoint on what it is we are here to do, which includes having kids, to me, but i exempt all parents for becoming caught in the notion that having kids is what they were born to do. What we are born to do is such a question of impossible fathoming that it gets relegated to the cliche for those of us who hold much of the motives of humanity suspect. cynical haters (yan zombie take note) are generally so sensitive on the inside that the only way through is to laugh through the follies of humanity, taking refuge only in our own certainty that there is something better and the relief that seeing others laugh with us brings. we’re not alone…but we are surrounded.
The structure i give to my world and my reason for being, at the moment, seems comprised of equal parts paying off credit debt, achieving abstract ambitions (art), following the ever morphing feeling of love and the connection of likeminded beings through any extension or medium. Media for the sake of evolving. that’s what i do, and i feel confident that if my overall intention with my work is to enlighten, beautify, challenge and evolve, then it’s a life well lived.
The problem is overcoming inertia. i have difficulty both slowing down and starting up. i can see the inherent emptiness in everything, i honestly feel i can grasp what the boddhisattvas and the meditators are reaching for in the letting go of all attachments. i get the eastern thing of oneness, i think both intellectually an emotionally through sanskrit chanting of mantras. i am not claiming enlightenment at all, in fact, i feel that the real awakening of the highest pinnacles of spiritual mysticism can only take you to the brink, once again, of the mystery itself. Nothing and everything the same. In a world of this level of paradox and logical truisms (it is what it is), there’s nothing else to do but get involved.
Like a classic dualist, i will point out two approaches to getting involved, ultimately i aspire to a middle path but the spectrum is defined as such: altruism=living your life in service to others and superseding the desires of the self hedonism=life in service of the self. Fulfilling desires. The spectrum of a life and its choices really comes down to this, at least here on planet earth. metaphysical and religious paradigms reveal this paradox at their core. here we are on earth, created by gods of some sort for their a)amusement b)for our punishment c)a testing ground for us souls . As such we need to follow the dogmatic rules of an entity we can neither see not hear. This requires a thing called faith, which is almost always in the case of the Bible Belt of North America, a blind willingness to not even explore other notions. For most of us agnostics, and even semi spiritual realists the question of living a life in service of self or others is a matter of preference, but not of judgment. If you want to party your face off, do it…if you want to volunteer to help birth babies in earthquake ravaged haiti, that’s amazing. Most of us lead lives somewhere in the self determined middle of an altruistic sense of duty to our fellow man, and a “do what thou wilt” anarchic sense of self preservation and advance.
Being involved in life means taking part in the unfolding of what happens here. i suppose the ultimate opting out would be suicide, which is the extreme form of hopelessness and lack of meaning, crisis of pain or otherwise, a serious end. In the case of choosing to remain active in the world, one comes to a place of making decisions of action and these form the basis of our stance in the unfolding of the world. This is the theater of the self, a million self reflecting mirrors and the trick is to find the ones that distort the least, or give the best impression. I have always found that love, both of the self, and other, and the inseparable nature of their duality, makes a middle path the only one that doesn’t result in conflicts of interest. Love makes for the most pleasant mirroring experiences as well as a comforting place when the reflections get ugly.
This is easier said than practiced. the anger i feel on the daily, induced by idiotic policies, unjust imprisonings, wars, drug busts, corporate crimes, flagrant abuses of power consciously against the evolution of humanity shows my feelings that we are a one world people and that we should take care of each other, but also my own innate responses of separation. I try to be an egoless anarchist. my life is service to the peace which would eventually allow us all to explore the manifestation of our dreams. Unfortunately, the powers of the world fight to dominate and control the minds, wills and labours of the masses to slake the greedy thirsts of their elites and to control the people enough to prevent them from awakening. I find world affairs to be so dishearteningly cruel and anti-humanity that i would suffer from overload if i cared too much about saving my fellow man from the fate he has chosen. Many hipsters fall into this sort of nihilism, before they really explore any sort of altruism, and i think thats a mistake, as at the core being anti-human is absurd, really only a stance taken by someone who has missed the point of activism, or in activism for that matter. nihilism is, in a way, a form of suicide. A life without meaning could not even really be a life. there can be a zen ness to focussed nihilism, but really it’s just tragic.
My sad place, is the feeling of hopelessness, that my logic is somehow flawed, or that i have missed the point myself, or even more that the truth is that war will continue and that there will always be evil, that it will continue to grow until i die, with tears in my eyes. i do not presume to know which road we should take, but i have said many times that war is not an answer. Humans killing humans is ridiculous, over beliefs or resources or anything. The notion that we spend billions on defending ourselves from each other instead of feeding each other and sheltering, educating and enhancing. what the hell are we supposed to be doing here? Love is clearly not a global priority, so maybe I might be on the wrong boat? I don’t think so, but who knows?
i have wavered in and out of this type of near depression since my first year in university. the first class of my university career was Logic 101. seriously. it was an 8am class and the prof said “welcome to the first class of the rest of your life. some of you will drop this class because you dont get it. i wish you luck. those who stay may find the world gets depressing because you will realize that most people, if not EVERYONE, is talking shit. and i am going to show you how”. The exams in that class involved examining arguments for validity. it’s amazing how many invalid arguments and fallacies we hear daily, even commit ourselves in our minds (thought is often our speaking to ourselves), it’s no wonder our communications break down and we find ourselves at unsolvable crises (gaza??). So much of our thought is based on faulty logic. The arguments are built in to our language and our process of reasoning. A lot of the world operates on a selfish fear based rationality which becomes irrational in action. Those who operate on sound logic are confounded by illogical behaviour, even after we become spiritual and accept many illogical ideologies and approaches, we still remain attached to a good sense of logic in evaluating things. To my view the world has become such an illogical disaster that it has once again sunk me into the depressions that come from losing faith, from wondering if at the core of what we have created in the global civilization, is the extension of some alien war for conquest which we are born into and die fighting for.
This depression is seasonally affected, mostly by rain and wetness for me, an irony of my coastal life for so many years. i identify with salamanders, and other amphibians, with some kind of waterproof semi permeable skin that allows them to slide through water. I choose the snowboard life in the winter and it allows me a way to avoid the chaotic freeflow that continual rain brings. In the winter i do feel depressed more often, because the sun is less visible in the the shorter days, and the longer nights are electrically ultrawired by baseboards and digital communication. Winter has come, and again i face the short days and long nights of an ever increasingly exciting and unstable world. There are whitecaps on the Georgia Straight and i’m sure there’s snow on the roads. The weather plays such a vital role in mirroring our moods and experiences. Never underestimate a good holiday in the sun or a 9am -12noon snowboard routine. Staying active is the only way to fight ennui.
All of this brings me back to the ferry ride, and the love i have for my partner, who is a reflection in my life reminding me of love, for myself, deeply for her, for other people and their daily struggles with whatever it is they have chosen to do with their lifetimes, illogical or not. Love for the earth and love for music, all of the good things that make a life here a gift, if it were not so overrun with suffering and interrelated stresses, she reminds me that we are connected to each other and that living for ourselves, treating ourselves well, loving who we are, is as essential a step in truly functional altruism, as having a sense of the interconnectedness of others is to the most fiendish hedonist. The best parents i know are living this reflection in the most real way i know, not giving in to this abstract hopelessness i feel sometimes, and getting up to “clean all the things ” make breakfast and give love in abundance to the next generation of unfathomable humans. For those of us without children, It all comes down to choices made in faith that things will get better and that people are ultimately worth saving. This loving middle path allows for healthy doses of cynicism, sarcasm, as well as unabashed sappy loving and unbridled personal passions. This means having an amazing life that is both pathological altruistic and unflinchingly hedonistic. It means having fun as well as having a job, or working at something, to evolve yourself, or others, all of us in this great mystery.