Category Archives: Self

Money, part 2

This is a continuation of my previous post, describing my mission to actively move away from using money. This involved being homeless and discovering the opportunities of life without money.

Going back to money

I always knew I would be reintegrating with the “normal” world eventually. After a whole year of being homeless and surviving without money, I was ready to go back.

In discovering rationalism, I had come across some cool techniques for life. Using probabilities and a cost vs benefit analysis I decided to move to London and become a developer. This was calculated as a low-cost high reward strategy for maximum money in minimum time that had a good chance of success.

The ultimate goal was to make time for more philosophical activity in my life. The no-money route is an option to regain some time, but perhaps not enough. The costs are also high: poor physical health, lack of stability (high anxiety). In short, to reach my goals, I had to use money.

Emotional difficulties

Even though my feminist days gave me this advice: “we all are doing what we can to survive under unfair conditions, so it is wrong to criticise others who are performing along the expected lines of society”, I still suffered feelings of horrible guilt and of being a sell out.

I rationally knew that I had come up with a decent plan that might ultimately help me to do more of what I love, an activity which might help people and even contribute to changing the society I find myself in. However the feelings of being a sell-out, of “getting more right-wing as I got older” were strong. It took some years to be more at peace with my choices and even longer to find a framework that might help to describe them.

I also felt uncomfortable  earning (what felt like) an obscene amount of money in comparison to others. Coming from the local government sector gave me a strong sense that the people who do the hardest jobs get paid the least money. I also felt working class guilt, that I was being a traitor for accepting and using middle class salaries, buying myself middle class privileges.

Of course, it was harder for me to remember that my new salary was still below average, well below median and certainly not “obscene” by any measure.

 

I had to remind myself that it is ok to have money. Life is indeed much easier with money. I think the study about IQ drop when feeling anxiety over money has failed to replicate, like so many others, however the anxiety levels at the low-end of the money scale seem anecdotally extremely large, and are relieved entirely by a modest income. Having modest amounts of money allows for optimism for the future, enables regular excursions outside of the house, enables much easier social relations, allows freedom of travel and greatly improves physical health.

Another aspect of money relates to sharing your money. I can now be honest about my motivations for generosity, is it signalling, is it genuine concern? I now feel ok about exploring those ethics.

One thing is certain, being without money is an excellent way to understand and use it effectively.

Further Truths

It’s expensive to be poor.

This perverse rule was visible everywhere once I recognised it.

The ATMs in poor neighbourhoods always charge for withdrawals, because poor neighbourhoods don’t attract chain banks or other enterprises that provide free cash machines. It’s not worth it, because everyone there is poor.

The converse is also often true: it’s cheap to be rich. Rich people are often invited to free events in the random hope that someone will spend their money eventually on the host’s business. Art galleries have free private views. Overdrafts on wealthy client’s accounts are free, while poor people are penalised for even a £1 overdraft withdrawal. The richer you are, the more free things get offered to you. Of course, money makes more money if you just leave it alone, so the act of simply having some gives you an income on it as well.

Cheating on benefits is much harder than getting a job

Almost nobody does it, so get over it. Of the ones that do, it is our fault as a society for not providing more useful deception games that their skills could be applied to. Either way it is an acceptable loss.

 

Post-money

It doesn’t take very long to earn enough money such that survival is covered and all the questions about the meaning of life, and how to spend one’s time, return. For my freelance friends who really do earn obscene money, the problem of what to do every day becomes a real concern. Material benefits lose their charm alarmingly quickly. Boredom is the ultimate problem.

It leads me to wonder if there are groups of people with rich depression, whom we could leverage to do interesting things. It also makes me a proponent of universal benefit, which might be an interim step that will lead us to the idea that we should spend some time shunting around our shared, limited resources and the rest of the time getting together to do interesting things.

Money doesn’t need to be money

For some people (many?) their salary is much more to do with “numbers going up” – the dopamine reward system that video games harness so well, than it is to do with material goods or comfort. For those who are not too interested in the status that material goods bring, the motivation is more to do with the esteem a society holds them in (itself another kind of status).

This had led me to speculate about the possibility of divorcing “currency” – a phrase for the part of money that is a functional system of exchange rather than drag 2,000 eggs to market to swap for a cow – from the insane, imaginary mathematical games people play in financial markets that none the less cause ordinary people to lose their homes.

I recently spoke to a software developer in the finance industry who openly admitted that he engages in creating software that is deliberately difficult to use, so that financial investors feel as though they are actually doing something during their 90 hour work week, rather than admit that they do no better than random chance. His team actively re-writes old software with more complex navigation menus and deliberately obfuscatory usage procedures to supply the illusion that these people do something Very Hard that only Magic Skilled People can do.

I wonder how hard it would really be to round up the entire top several levels of the world financial system and quietly slide them all into an MMO or virtual world, where we tell them they are trading and have won and lost millions of “dollars” when actually we have disconnected them from the currency we use for basic goods, shelter and transport a long time ago.

Capitalism

I used to think capitalism was evil. Now I think it’s just a system.

I think it’s quite amenable to being hacked and changed, which is good. It might be the least bad system so far. It also doesn’t function in a vacuum. Capitalism so far has always operated with, alongside and within several other systems: nation states, governmental organisation systems, political systems, charity systems and particularly “welfare” systems. The welfare side is where we put lots of our human morals, and I now find it strange when people demand moral behaviour from capitalist systems.

There are some who believe that current systems would be improved if allowed to operate with the same rules as a “market”. I think they are correct in some cases, but it would be disastrous in others.

I do think there are aspects to markets/capitalism that mean it has never been a complete or functioning system. For example, natural resources are exploited at no cost, giving the illusion of eternal resources and thus eternal growth. I will be very interested to see how capitalism changes when this loop is closed, such as when governments give natural resource systems legal rights, or with carbon taxes.

I feel optimistic that since capitalism is subject to theories as engines, not as cameras, it will continuously evolve and will no doubt be a useful system in the system tool box for a long time.

Emotionally Dealing With Cheaters

It’s time for some emotional maturity when it comes to agents engaged in systems.

Hawks and Doves

A few decades ago, a couple of scientists applied game theory to evolutionary development. The result was evolutionary game theory and it gave us some neat new ways to understand evolution.

The most famous example of this work is known as “hawks and doves”. The premise is that given a certain set of circumstances, individuals within the same species competing for finite resources may have more than one strategy for obtaining those resources. Divided simplistically, an individual may behave in a “dove”-like fashion ie standing down from conflict (after an initial bluff of force) and sharing resources with other doves it discovers, both of whom are non-violent or a “hawk”-like fashion ie following through on threats of violence and not sharing resources with others. The dove strategy has low costs but also low rewards while the other has high cost but also higher potential reward.

The theorists produced a graph that showed which strategy might be optimal under which conditions. There is an awful lot more to evolutionary game theory however I mention this as an illustrative example.

Depending on the conditions, you have a certain percentage of hawks and doves. The more hawks you have, the more costly it is to be one as you might starve or be killed. The more doves you have, the higher the reward for being a hawk (violent and not sharing) since almost everyone you meet is a dove and will back down. In the high dove scenario, it makes sense for more individuals to become hawks since the rewards are high and the risks very low. Once you have several hawks though, the chances of meeting another hawk are higher and it once again becomes too costly to be one compared to the expected reward. There is a certain balance that appears between the types of strategy. The exact ratios depend on the situation, but what I want to point out is that you always have some hawks.

Social Strategies/Cheaters

Evolutionary game theory goes on to analyse circumstances where individuals within a species co-operate to a certain extent, rather than compete.

Humans often co-operate, and this behaviour is said to be ‘social’. Humans are one of the most socially sophisticated animals on the planet.

In a highly social society there are systems of rules in place and a few different strategies for success. Social systems are typically based on varying degrees of trust, you need to trust that other people will follow the rules and humans have evolved extremely complex skills and heuristics to assess trustworthiness in others.

One strategy in trust based systems is to fake trustworthiness, not abide by the rules, screw people over and reap the benefits. This strategy risks being caught and completely shunned, which may even lead to death. It is a high-risk, high-reward strategy that is the social equivalent to a hawk.

It seems to be that any social system that has rules based on trust is also open to the possibility of cheating being a viable strategy. In any social game you always have some cheaters.

Stopping Cheaters

Our social evolution has given humans pretty powerful tools to spot a cheater, helping groups to keep cheaters to a minimum. Many of our formal systems also have safeguards to attempt to weed out cheaters.

However, I frequently come across the assumption that it would be ideal to completely eliminate cheaters. This is wrong.

Eliminating cheaters is not possible. All games of any complexity have rules and therefore can be cheated. The more dove-like rule-followers a game has, the greater the rewards are for cheating and so the likelihood of having cheaters in the game increases. I believe that past a certain point you have a power-law situation with cheaters, where the energy expended to detect and remove cheaters grows exponentially the lower the number of cheaters becomes. Eventually, the measures taken to eliminate the cheaters become more injurious for everyone than the harm the cheaters are causing.

A recent example from my life: at a Pride parade of tens of thousands of people a political group of a dozen participants was denied entry, but unofficially they ‘broke in’ at the end of the column and marched anyway. Despite the fact that the organisers had made reasonable efforts to prevent the group from marching that year the outrage was huge, so the following year the organisers implemented a security system requiring all 10,000 people to acquire official wristbands, the parade needed extra staff, security barriers and to change the assembly point and shorten the parade route. The measures far exceeded the harm.

Eliminating cheaters is not necessarily desirable. Cheaters have to develop great skill to cheat, skills that are often prized in general, from thorough attention to detail to ingenuity, innovation and improvisation. In David Chapman’s essay ‘Geeks, Mops and Sociopaths’ the sociopaths – the cheaters – have an important function. They use their skills to market the New Thing made by the Geeks, making money and enriching culture, even if they reap an unfair share of the rewards. Sociopaths in general are quite likely to be cheaters but also quite likely to be very useful, like surgeons.

Emotional maturity

The extreme measures taken to eliminate cheaters seem to be often caused by the emotional pain of being a rule-follower and seeing or knowing that there are cheaters. Cheaters seem to reap great rewards, while the costs of the strategy are less visible. The emotional reaction can blind people to other causes for cheating, such as injustice (which I think may have played a part in the Pride parade example).

This emotional overreaction goes for double when money is involved – the obvious example is rabidity over benefit/welfare cheaters. I think the extra effort expended on trying to prevent cheaters is one of the key reasons that universal benefit works out cheaper.

People also seem to overestimate how many cheaters there are. I would expect any system to be capable of supporting around 10% hawks/cheaters. However from internet reading I’ve done about crimes, false claims about crimes (eg false insurance claims, false rape claims) are around 2%. This seems absurdly low.

The emotional desire to eliminate cheaters is prioritised over the rational knowledge that cheaters are inevitable, exist in low numbers and are even desirable. We need to sort that out because so often the measures to prevent cheaters are worse than the cheaters themselves.

 

 

Money

From the title, this post seems to me to have too broad a remit but I wanted to document the changes in my relationship to money.

This blog was started at the outset of a journey in which I refused to engage with money. Money was being used as a weapon of power, particularly in the political landscape, and I wanted to disempower the people I did not agree with. When it comes to affairs in the humaniverse (a term I coined to describe what many people call ‘the real world’ or ‘life’ of the ‘universe’ when actually the thing they are describing is entirely dependent on humans to exist and so I call it the humaniverse), people only have power if everyone else collectively believes that they do. It’s possible to shift power if this act of believing is changed or halted. Since it was mainly the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I had problems with, and their domain is money, I decided to stop believing in it.  Now, some might say that money has non-human power of its own, or humaniverse power of its own, however I decided to see whether it merely had advantages, ones which it was possible to do without.

And I found that it was possible. It is only possible through many other aspects of the humaniverse supporting the journey of course. At first I might have said I was using a different system to live, but I don’t think that’s true, I was still part of the same mechanisms, just squeezing into an extremely unusual choice within that system.

Money is a key step in a short chain that humans have set up. You start with needing shelter, food and luxuries, you exchange your labour for a currency and you use the currency to fill the need. For most of us, money is that currency. By ignoring money I substituted other kinds of currency, such as time or domestic labour. My feminist sisters have done some excellent work in pointing out that vast amounts of female domestic and emotional labour support the lop-sided system of capitalism that rewards some labour with money but relies on lots of other labour that is given very little reward, an extremely disproportionate amount of which is done by women.

So in a straightforward sense I exchanged domestic labour for being able to stay overnight with friends and family and this depended on them still having jobs and paying rent, so was not really ‘outside the system’. In a slightly more subversive way, I removed unwanted food from the bins of supermarkets. This too is only possible if only some people do it, and thoroughly depends on the system.  It also demanded quite a lot of my time and physical energy, so that was the unit of exchange for ‘free’ food.

The biggest thing to try to do without money is try to find shelter. This endeavour brings one into the same category as the homeless, tramps, Travellers (Roma, gypsies) and squatters. All of these people are trying to derive shelter without traditional income streams and all of them have to move on frequently. This way of living requires time, travelling resources and a very large amount of emotional and physical energy. These strategies seem to be the most ‘outside the system’ strategies I encountered because they require almost total disconnection from every other service our society provides and can have a profound toll on physical health.

It is in this area that I had the most insight about the way we order our culture and how profoundly insecure and intolerant we are. Read more here.

However, the benefits of living without money were many.

Time

Not having to work gave me a lot of free time. After sorting out some food and housing for the day, I had many hours left over and I was almost stumped with how to fill them. I read lots of books and talked to people, but I could have learned whole languages or retrained in anything I wanted. I taught myself to juggle and practised for many hours. I read the whole of HPMOR and a good chunk of the LessWrong material. I had lots of time for reflection.

Mental freedom

The mentral freedom I experienced was likely only possible due to actively trying to turn away from money and earning money. This seemed a little like staring into a campfire for a lifetime, then suddenly turning around and viewing a dark, unkown vista that is the whole rest of the world. Entire landscapes of possibility seemed now open. With so much time to fill, something that requires time now seemed exciting, such as learning a language. The world actually felt like my oyster, instead of that being a thing people say.

This revelation was so strong because I’ve always had a life of desperately trying to earn enough money to survive, ie a poor/working class kind of a life.

With money out of the picture, my efforts were all focussed towards things like leisure, learning, helping others, creating art, making plans and basically everthing most humans wish they had more time to do. I found that not tying my decisions to whether it might help my career in some way enabled me to make surprising choices. It was possibly only then did I truly engage in or appreciate activities that you do for their own sake. This last is meant to be a corner stone of good mental health.

It is from these experiences that lead to my current views about the sheer unapprecaited scale of output from all humans we as a species could receive by instituting Universal Benefit schemes.

Novelty

Because of having to move on a lot, and exploring new mental space, something novel happened to me almost every day. According to research I’ve read but not checked, novelty (or absence of routine) makes subjective experience of time seem to lengthen. If things are constantly new, it is as if time is moving more slowly. Perhaps because we generate a baseline expecation of how many things can happen in, for example, one day.

As a result, the year I spent homeless and engaged in almost constant novelty subjectively feels about the same as three years of a normal life. This is one of the reasons ‘travelling’ feels like such a transformative experience since the traveller has experienced (and changed as a result) at seemingly three times of the speed of normal life.

People make their reality narrow

After seeing a city in terms of only its abandoned buildings, rather than its desirable ones or after seeing a pedestrian railing as a playground instead of a crash barrier it is easy to see how many different realities exist for humans in the same physical space. You only see what you need to and human contexts are really narrow.

I sometimes experienced the opposite of what most people experience in certain places. For example, I perceive Birmingham to be very friendly because I was homeless and I locked eyes with homeless people. Homeless people smile a lot at the people that see them, so I experienced Birmingham as very friendly, the opposite of what most people find there.

Realising how context-specific humans can be, to the point of being entirely blind to physical objects was very useful. I now practice context-switching, particularly for city streets. I imagine how a lover of architecture would see a street, then a person looking for free food, then a parkour practitioner, then a squatter, then a property developer, archaeologist and so on and in that way attempt to see my environment in its intricate entirety.

Poor Person Pain

One of the things I learned was that as a poor person, I had developed antagonistic defences against things that I could never have, due to being a poor person. Instead of being in pain over the things I could never have, I created elaborate reasons for why I actually didn’t want them anyway, probably to alleviate that pain. I said and believed that a poor person’s life was more virtuous, due to reusing, recycling and sharing, that I didn’t want things like nice clothes because it was empty signalling, that following fashion was pointless, unethical or deceitful.

It was only through the subject of technology did I notice this behaviour by experiencing cognitive dissonance. I had developed a dismissive and curmudgeonly attitude to technology during travelling. It was indeed partly because I believed non-technological skills like reading maps and surviving when you don’t know where you were are important skills to develop and not lose. However that was not the whole story and in other ways I would describe myself as a person who welcomes technological advances and was not curmudgeonly about technology in general. I realised I had set myself up to hate the things I couldn’t have, because technology is rarely available for free.

Returning To Money

Returning to money, however, was no easy feat.

Reflections 2015

I see I’ve barely made a post since October 2014. Via my customary ‘reflections’ post, let’s take a look at everything that’s been going on for me this year.

Context

For much of last year I spent time thinking about how to save the world. I also spent some time trying to find paid work, but perhaps not enough. I had  a new friend who made world saving his sole concern and invited me to help.

Around October 2014 I felt that this friend’s attitudes and strategies were incompatible with mine and we parted ways. At the same time I fell in love once more. I had been completely single for a long time, and had unsatisfying relationships for some time before that.

New Person was (is) quintessentially kind, generous, empathetic and thoughtful. Most importantly they make me feel calm. It threw into stark relief the wrangling and frustration I felt with my world-saving friend and New Person helped to set me on a new path.

Extremely useful life lesson: if a person you care for makes you feel doubtful or confused, even after attempts at different types or levels of communication, then they are not good for you. They are failing to empathise with you, and no matter what possibilities your relationship might have held, you will never realise those possibilities because they do not have a strong enough desire to work with you. They let you continue to feel confused, they are fine with you experiencing crippling doubt. They are not good for you and you must let them go.

In autumn 2014 I had abandoned paid work in favour of world saving, leaving me once again with no cash beyond next month’s rent and not much more experience in my industry than the year before. This was a conscious decision in August, and it was deliberately reversed in November. By Christmas I was attempting to turn the boat once more, but this time I really meant it.

This year

This year has been a year of two halves. In the first half I was still living in poverty, eking out every penny I earned to stretch into the unknown future. In January I had to borrow money for rent. At the last moment I got a week of work in March, which covered back rent for February and lasted until April. I got one more week of work in May, again covering back rent and leaving enough for one more month into the future. I spent nothing but Oyster payments and rent. I was kept in weed and good cheer entirely by New Person, who also covered my train fare for visits and the occasional meal out.

When actually seeking to earn money but not having any, the world closes down into a dark, cramped tunnel. There is only one acceptable activity: looking for work, or training more for work.Some weeks I coded every morning, and I mostly managed to read blogs about my craft and checked job boards every day. I went to meetings and meetups, but all this took all the willpower and discipline that I had available. There was nothing of me left over for anything else.

Every pay day I experienced a brief rise back to my normal IQ. Those 13 points lost due to anxiety about money tangibly returned for a week or two, allowing some light at the end of the dark tunnel to peak through, but soon closed up again as rent day went by.

I have on and off anxiety, which takes the form of intense death anxiety, and this reached a peak in May. I started to wonder how anyone could think that doing anything in life is important, or meaningful. I couldn’t believe that others didn’t see how laughable plans for the future seemed to be and I was constantly triggered by the smallest things, particularly lists of ‘100 things to do before you die’ or common phrases like “well, you can’t take it with you”. What on earth could it matter if you saw that movie or didn’t? Visited Thailand or didn’t? Bought a house or not? It’s meaningless in the context of that self disappearing as if it never existed in the first place.

This anxiety used to plague me before sleep, when all was quiet and there was only my ego inside my head, but by May it was leaking out into my days and eventually stopped me from doing normal things that I knew were statistically risky, like being in cars. I knew I needed help but didn’t have the energy to get it. But I did have my housemates and my partner, who knew what was happening and gave me support.

One thing I did have for that dark time was videogames. New Person had an Xbox One and I became obsessed with Destiny, a first person shooter with RPG elements. Getting my own XboxOne so that I could play online with them became my goal to symbolise what I was striving for.

Then in June came the second half.  I had resisted the urge to relax my job hunting for the summer, like I had so many times in the past. I reversed my reasoning about how it’s better not to work in the summer. I had previously fucked up my momentum by stopping in the summer, all because of chronic fear of missing out. But I had no agency to do anything this summer without money and I could make my own summer with a holiday in British winter. If I had money. So I carried on trying to find work.

Finally, I put javascript on my CV. I had purchased a theme for my website, with a proper design. I was now interesting to agencies and after several failed interviews I suddenly got an 8 week contract with an expanding travel company doing CSS work.

This was the moment I had been gambling on for two years. Due to the day rate for my industry, any contract longer than 3 weeks could pay my back and forward rent and also start to pay all my debts. It took just 4 days to earn the money I owed people from the previous two years.

On my first pay day I had to run out and buy clothes, since I owned almost nothing without holes or without missing buttons, and no suitable shoes or coats. I was lucky that it was summer and a start-up office, so I could hide my lack of clothes by not really having to wear the normal office uniform.

I worked for the next 11 weeks or so on and off, achieving a second contract for two weeks with another company. I registered a limited company, under the name I’d chosen with my Dad 13 years previously. I opened a business bank account. I got an accountant. I spent hundreds of pounds filling up my wardrobe that had not had a new item added to it since 2011.

Everything was suddenly ok. After those 11 weeks it was September. I took New Person on holiday to Amsterdam. I bought the Xbox. I rebuilt my warehouse bedroom with vastly better materials. I replaced my mattress with a bigger, handmade futon. I started to fund New Person to be self employed.

I had a flood of new emotions, and I will hopefully dedicate a post to my feelings when buying a new summer coat. Almost everything I thought about the world is now different. Again.

When I came back from my holiday in September there was no work around. The fear that my summer contracts were a fluke was hard to keep at bay. I had overspent a little on my house rebuild, so only had rent covered for three months ahead rather than 4. And I hadn’t planned for Christmas. But I stayed a bit more calm. I went outside sometimes. I was paying myself a salary from my business earnings that gave me spending money over and above my rent, so I could go to the pub and afford train fare.

I went to get help for my mental health and cried throughout every step of the process. Everyone in that process was great. I strongly feared I would have a non-queer friendly Christian therapist with the name “Uwe” pronounced “oo-way” by the lady on the phone. But to my great relief he turned out to be an avuncular, humanist, atheist German man called “oo-ver” and he was/is amazing.

More work showed up in November. I ditched a client that I did not like because they made me feel uncomfortable, even though I desperately needed the money. But instead I managed to work at a global film company, and my rent was sorted.

Finally, out of the blue, I had a long contract in December, and despite losing some respite time I gained gleeful abandon shopping for Christmas presents. Gifts I could easily afford with no thought at all, for the first time since I started doing Christmas. It was wonderful.

In the background of this anxiety/money quest, I had noticed that my sister seemed to like me more than before. She also got pregnant this year and when I saw her this summer for her birthday she was tolerant and kind: a big change from the past. I decided she’d need help with the baby, because her husband and family that live close by all work full time hours. But I couldn’t just rock up when it was born, so I should call her while everyone else was at work during her pregnancy. She was sitting at home absorbing the world through youtube, discovering TED talks and the Bechdel Test and the gay rights movement for the first time on her sofa.

Reconnecting with her after years of antipathy was something I hoped for but didn’t really expect and it’s very good to feel it happen. Change was a beacon on my horizon this year, even if I couldn’t always see it.

This Christmas I met my nephew, just 6 days old and so much more interesting because he’s related to me. I didn’t know how I would feel about being around a baby, but once I’d held him, I couldn’t wait to hold him again. I also stood up for my sister, as the one who will be hit hardest by this new arrival. I think she took strength from seeing me, and that’s also a wonderful feeling.

Last year I honed my skills on the whetstone of yet another driven man that I ended up in some kind of a relationship with. Once again it was difficult and the end painful, but made so much easier by the sharp relief of New Person. Their skills, their drive to be better, their emotional maturity. It was them that made this year happen, that made the dark times not too dark. Them who encouraged some forgotten geeky joys, who showed me how to plan for the present, how to enjoy things right now and how to be calm.

Finally, to keep another tradition, here is a screenshot of every book I read this year.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 14.37.50

Me and myself

But who had uttered these words? They had not frightened me. They were clearly audible to me yet they did not ring out across the air like the chilling cough of he old man in the chair. They came from deep inside me, from my soul. Never before had I believed or suspected that I had a soul but just then I knew I had. I knew also that my soul was friendly, was my senior in years and was solely concerned for my own welfare.

– Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

I’ve written before in my diary about experiencing dreams and waking moments when my internal-monologue ‘self’ has had a discussion with another entity inside my brain. This entity must also be myself, since it’s inside my brain, however it has certain unexpected qualities, chiefly that while my monologue “self”, the thing I think of as me, has a clear idea of what it is about to say, the other self’s intentions are completely opaque to me. I recall in dreams having a conversation and as well as having no idea what the self will say, I was surprised by its answers. Curiously, in this particular dream, the opaque self was looking after my wellbeing.

Ever since noticing this phenomenon I have also noticed how often one consults oneself, in a manner that implies two people are talking, how often I think of myself in the plural, how often I have a sensation of being divided or having differing thoughts simultaneously and of referring to myself as ‘we’.

My new thoughts of the day equate the self whose intentions are opaque with the part of the brain which causes me to take an action without conscious thought. I’m not talking about nervous system or autonomic actions, such as reacting away from pain, rather something I noticed that I was gaining while I was in my travelling year, which felt like the opposite of laziness. I found myself leaping up to take action to make something happen, rather than debating with my internal monologue about whether and how to take an action. In those moments it is as if the conscious self only engages with realising you are doing something after it has begun. It feels spontaneous, and “un-selfconscious”. 

I was recently talking with a friend who seemed to be expressing an inability to achieve unselfconsciousness. The state is something similar to being in flow, but the absence of self-monologue occurs when experiencing pleasure, rather than necessarily needing to be performing an optimally stimulating task.

Judging from my own experience, it seems as if the benevolent, opaque self is the thing that takes action and the thing that can knowledgeably talk to you. I believe it is the main part of human life. However the internal monologue self can only occur in a modern world where every need is catered for: food, shelter, warmth, care and social life are all present by default and require no effort to achieve, at least for a very long time in early life, leaving an inordinate amount of time to sit around thinking.

The monologue self and the talking part of the action self only exist because of language, and the monologue self is only so strong due to the complexity of language, the early age that literacy is achieved and the amount of time spent thinking in it.

In my own individual experience as a person simultaneously intelligent, shy, artificially walled off from social interactions and having a preference for reading and writing as solo activities, I think my monologue self has been strongly developed whereas the ‘take action’ self neglected (and even deliberately suppressed by my elders/environment).

Throughout my life I have craved to behave more unselfconsciously, to be less lazy, or less paralysed, to worry about and be afraid of fewer things, to embrace new activities and to feel less trapped having internal experiences that other people don’t seem to share.

These thoughts about the two selves and where they come from feel reassuring to me, as they suggest a path to strengthen the one that takes action, and hopefully increase well-being too.

 

 

2012 is coming to an end

I felt a slight shock when I realised that 2012 is almost over. Here is my traditional post musing on the things I’ve done this year.

I gave away (almost) all my worldly possessions. I went to my third BiCon. I had group sex! I had group sex more than once! I had group sex with people I’d only known for a day! I went to Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Bradford, Cambridge, Portugal and Madrid for the first time. I walked outside of Birmingham New Street Station. I cried infront of a painting. I went to a psytrance festival. In a foreign country. I swam in a lake sparkling with fool’s gold. I saw a lizard. I volunteered for litter picking at a festival. I saw how the world works. I learned how to get food out of bins. I was travelling/homeless for two thirds of the year. I read/watched the entire run of Promethea, My So-Called Life and Firefly. I fell in love. I added some notches to my bedpost (including three girls and a royal marine!) I blagged three nights in a caravan after a festival. I went backstage. I was a runner for stilt walking performers. I met some famous drum ‘n’ bass DJs. I did bi activism. I stayed over in a squat. I stopped being scared of London. I saw Tube mice. I hitch-hiked. I ate melon and liked it. I kissed a guy with a forked tongue. I made many new friends. I stayed on a boat in the Lake District. I met many people who will change the world. I tried mushrooms. I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I got so ill my period came a week and a half early, and I mistook it for kidney disease! I broke up and got back together with the same person! I walked on a slackline! I learned to juggle! I protested outside the deputy PM’s house! I lead a protest charge with “She’ll be coming round the mountain”! I marched with the trade unions against austerity (twice)! I saw a world title boxing match! I went to a gig with someone I didn’t know. I saw my father. I met my step grandmother, and other estranged family. I entertained revolutionary thoughts. I  took my clothes off for cash. I joined libraries in four different cities. I got a tax rebate. I “looked poly” in public. I confused people. I loved it when my boyfriend kissed a guy. I stayed awake all night and worshiped the full moon. I wrote dirty stories for money. I went to OpenCon. I was captain of a starship. I lost my childhood. I quit my job. I had dinner at Harvey Nicholls. I was looked after. I busked on the street. I got pet rats and had to give them away. I felt human. I stayed alive.

This year I’ve had a So-Amazing Life.

And what have I learned? When it comes to food, you get what you’re given, be grateful for it, don’t waste any and always share. When it comes to sleep, just do it when you want to or when you can, there’s no need to worry. You can learn to change your sleep over time, including where you can tolerate doing it. A futon on slats is the best way to sleep ever. Food is only out of date when it smells bad. Food is all around you, the more humans in any given space, the more free food you will find. The humaniverse will take care of you, if you let it. Be patient. Walk everywhere. Be the change. Doing new things makes life feel full. Being somewhere comfortable with nothing to do slows time down. Follow your highest excitement. Whatever your heart sings for. Who dares, wins.

Still to come:

get dp’d, apply to a PhD, start my own business, get a tattoo, get my driving license, go to Burning Man, eat at high table.

Welcome

Dearest readers,

I have four draft posts of vayring styles and quality lined up for your delictation however before we begin, let me tell you of a touching experience I had today. I happened to find and read my diary entries from the beginning of this year. I sounded fairly broken, filled with anxieties and heartache. I can now barely remember or recognise myself from just five months ago, before the start of this hobo journey and the thing that I now call my so-amazing life.

In tribute to Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, the 90s series that inspires this blog’s name and latest edition to bisexual culture (as voted by Jess and Nic), I present you with a blog post from my younger years, while I was studying for my degree in Fine Art, that I find charming and hilarious.

the mean reds

Hiding from my film in the library because it can’t get out of the media studios. Don’t know how to “finish” what I’ve done and don’t know if what I’ve done is even what I want (wanted) to do. It’s a case of the post production blues. The only high left for this piece is the dubious thrill of showing it to someone else which is more akin to realising you’re in the middle of a huge crowd and about to crap your pants.

I’m doing lots of running and hiding – leaving the house in the morning for uni because it’s ‘the thing to do’, once here just hiding from work and wanting to go home but when I get home I cower under the weight of FREE TIME. I feel I’m hiding from my friends here, hiding from sex, trying to hide from myself.

Maybe after this party that EVERYONES talking about will I feel I’m not waiting for something and I can get on with it. Finishing this film does highlight the fact I have no idea what to do next aswell. Ok I do have some ideas, fuck it. Interesting that I take refuge in writing.

I’m quite suprised to realise that not everything in life is gradually improving as you get older, in many cases quite the reverse actually, and this is possibly known as getting old. I always thought that if something hadn’t affected you in the past then it wouldn’t in the future, that if you were shit at something you can only improve as time goes on, and if you’re good at something you always will be, in the sense that you can’t go backwards.

But that’s all wrong. You can get worse at things. You don’t get better at things. New things to be shit at appear all the time. Not to mention your body giving you jip all the time, eve if you’re nice to it. It’s a slippery downhill slope and dying is when you give up trying. I’m suprised we live as long as we do, really.

On the other hand various sources (my mum, books, the bank manager) all implied to me that once you’re past about 18, you’re pretty much gonna stay the same the rest of your life: have the same interests, think the same things, be the same person. This is a big pile of bollocks.
Which is great, it means you can do what the fuck you want. And no-one knows you. A tragedy in some ways, but, to know someone is to have power over them and knowing that no-one really knows you means no-one controls you. But I can’t emphasise enough how utterly bollocks that ‘staying the same’ thing is.

So yeah, problems with sex feel like they’re getting worse, I feel more and more annoyed with people at uni, my rage at fundamental christianity builds every day with no sign of abating and I feel totally enclosed and ridiculously free all at the same time and it’s making me impotent.

A man called me a fag hag the other day. At first I wanted to deliver a good hard fist to the stomach of the guy but I realise I should have simply sat next to him and whispered in his ear ” Your children are going to put you in a home.” I felt much better after I thought of that. Idiot should have said ‘dyke’ or something though, a fag hag just hangs with gay guys, she doesn’t look gay, like I suppose he thought I did. Tard.

So, I’m pissed with everyone, especially my parents, I want to take drugs and generally tear the world apart: I think I just became a teenager.