Learning How, Why and When to Tell Yourself to STFU

tell yourself to stfu

There is one thing that almost all of us share in common, that is, we are often our own worst enemies. We become swept up in the force of ourselves so much that we often forget to be the kind of people that we are each trying to be. We sabotage our own happiness in moments of petty frustration, discomfort and/or irritability. This is part of the burden of being human. But just because it is natural doesn’t mean we should give in to it or give up on ourselves. Free will awaits all those who wish to face their weaknesses and address them.

Since most of our outbursts are products of internal thoughts or processes, our inner dialogue makes the best cut-off point for inappropriate behaviors and reactions. When we observe our inner selves experiencing signs of tension, we can then ask ourselves what struck us the wrong way and why. And for every answer we receive from ourselves, we can then ask a further question. If you follow this process you will almost inevitably find that what is bothering you is not the thing you are reacting to, but something about yourself you cannot reconcile. And even when the disturbance can be pinpointed externally, we can still question the nature of our own volatile reactions or responses.

For example, the other day while I was working the cash register at the book store, I was becoming increasingly nervous to the point of overwhelming anxiety. At some point I recognized that it was because the doorway that was located near me was very busy. The open/close/open/close/open/close was irritating for reasons that didn’t make any sense to me. So I explored my inner thoughts and investigated. I finally asked a helpful question, “What does a door symbolize?” After mulling about a bit around my mental playground I came to the conclusion that doors represent our fears, desires and frailties. A door keeps bad things out, protects the good things inside and provides access to objects of desire. From there I concluded that I had issues with my own unfulfilled desires and the door represented other peoples fulfillment. My anxiety was borne of petty jealousy. And once I realized that, the heavy door traffic stopped bothering me altogether almost instantly.

At the same time, I was exposed to an area of my own psychology that needed tending to, my frustration with my inability to fulfill my own desires to travel and write instead of live in one place and work a regular job. That is not an easy obstacle to overcome, but if I remember that it is an internal trigger, I can prevent myself from creating new obstacles out of the unrecognized frustration. Recognizing the connective patterns of our own inner workings does not necessarily solve all of our problems, but it does give us tools to deal with them in more healthy and productive ways.

There is one internal dialogue which I use regularly to great effect. I call it the ‘STFU Joshua’ voice. The first step to curbing outbursts and negative reactions is to cut ourselves off so that we have time to seek reason and calm through introspection. So as often as I possibly can, whenever I feel myself about to become unnecessarily confrontational or react in ways that will provide lingering consequences or hard feelings in myself and others, I use my inner voice to tell myself to shut the fuck up. I literally speak those words aloud in my own head. I have never disobeyed that order. The trick lies in learning when to give it.

The ultimate goal is to be able to give it whenever negativity will cost more than it can benefit. I am not for compulsive positivity, and I think a human who reduced themselves to that would be a boring, stagnant being. Great things are born of passion, and passion bears the fruit of struggle and confrontation in its growth. Yet an excess of negativity becomes a burden and consumes its bearer from within. If your own passions do not result in productive ends or fulfillment, it is time to question it and address them. This is something each of us must discover for ourselves.

I have always lived by the advice I give others, ‘QUESTION EVERYTHING!’ There is no better or effective place to apply that axiom than to your own self. Only through self reflection and introspection can we root out the flaws we are able to address and push ourselves along the path of our own evolution. The key to knowing anything at all reliably begins with self-awareness and knowing your own self.

Memes Are the Laugh Track of the Internet & That Is Not A Good Thing

memes

The more time goes on, the more that I really come to hate internet memes. It would be enough to hate them for just how stupid they are on their own merits, but when we consider that they may also be dumbing us down, they go from to idiotic to problematic.

The first issue applies mostly to memes under the category of ‘humor’ or ‘funny’. The problem is that most of them are not funny. In fact, most of them do not even seem to be very authentic attempts at humor. In many cases some generic image and statement are slapped together and rely merely on contextual premises. This is especially true of images that get meme’d over and over again. Take, for instance, Conspiracy Keanu. The subtext that the meme is funny precedes the actual memes that are made from it. From this presumption all sorts of terribly stupid, innate or boring bits of texts can be pasted over it and it still has a supposed underlying funniness because the image is a symbol that is meant to suggest or imply humor.

This is much the same way that laugh tracks work. A mediocre or terrible sitcom relies on laugh tracks to make the unfunny seem funny. It provides a contextual funniness that exists only in symbol, but not in substance. It is an attempt to subvert your reasoning and taste in order to draw a desired response. It is manipulation. And so are memes. And while almost nobody intends to manipulate others with memes in the symbolic way I have discussed, it happens nonetheless. And it is happening on such a wide scale that its total effect on our culture and consciousness should not be so easily discounted.

Next worse are the memes that use shock or snark in their content. The shock memes are really the most juvenile form of internet humor there is. That is not to say that there is not some value in shocking media, but at the same time that memes are intended to be shocking, the nature of its medium makes it a highly conformist activity, which negates any meaningful shock value. When memes are the norm, there can be little shocking about them. So it largely becomes a masturbatory circle of jaded fools trying to outdo one another in order to seek attention. And its okay to desire attention, but to do it in such a cliched and pedestrian way is pretty disgusting.

Snark is similar. Yet the thing that is extra gross about meme snark is that there is an underlying assumption that meme snark equates to truth. Many people will use one of these memes in comments sections to dismiss entire complex ideas. Meanwhile the irritating self-satisfaction of the sharer is obvious, while at the same time unearned. The subtext beneath memes becomes a form of automatic thinking. The medium gives weight to something via unspoken contextual clues while being devoid of any meaningful content.

The usage of memes as responses to larger ideas or dialogues is infuriating. It is intellectually lazy. It replaces opportunities to have meaningful discussions with the automated behavior of simply pasting in a meme. And there are no logical responses to memes, so they rob logic and reason and intellect from the entire situation and replace it with visual cliche. Despite the potential of the social media to awaken minds and provide a forum for information exchange and valuable discussions that lead to growth and evolution, it has become a wasteland for seeking attention and validation for completing the merely symbolic function of meme distribution.

This problem, the problem of symbol over substance, permeates our culture both online and off. We reinforce our own ignorance and automatic thought and behavior by replacing things of merit or substance with things that have nothing more than a symbolic function. This kind of problematic thinking and acting permeates every subject and issue we face. Politicians and advertisers have long understood how to manipulate us using our automated responses to certain symbolic stimuli. The subliminal. The unspoken but implied. These tricks are used to disrupt our reason and free will. So why in the hell would we be using similar tricks to entertain one another? The result of meme activity will be to further degrade free thinking and reason. Not as part of some grand conspiracy, but as a side effect of an activity we saw only as harmless fun, rather than as a contribution to the reinforcement of our own worst mindless habits. It does not matter what is intended. The effect transcends your motivation.

So for Eris’ sake, stop with the memes already! If for no other reason than to return some value to them by removing all of the mediocrity and repetition. And if you ever reply to me in an online conversation with a meme, prepare to get this article in response!

Marijuana As Medicine: When Thinking Objectively Fails

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I once had to attend a drunk driving course that took place over the weekend at a community college. The instructor filled our naughty little minds with all sorts of information, in hopes that it might transform us from criminals into upright citizens or scholars. Knowing that an abstinence only education would likely do more harm than good, the sobriety sensai told us about the medical studies which showed that small amounts of alcohol daily had numerous health benefits. She explained that it was not known exactly why this was, whether there was a biological cause or if there was some other less tangible reason. Her opinion was that it was the latter, as she stated, ‘A few drinks make you happy, and happiness has many benefits, health and otherwise.’ This, she claimed, was also the opinion of many ‘experts’. While I was impressed with her logic and pleased with her honesty, I wondered why we didn’t apply the same logic to other drugs.

When we discuss medical marijuana, it is almost always approached from the angle of bio-chemistry. The empirical method, it is believed, will reveal whether or not we can justify or validate the benefits of this plant. It is reasoned that if science can show a beneficial interaction between marijuana’s chemistry and our own, then that will ‘prove’ that the plant is medicinal. In essence, we have sought to demonstrate the efficacy of marijuana use by insisting that the only meaningful medicine is that which directly and literally affects the symptoms or illness.

Now lets ask ourselves why health issues are ‘bad’ in the first place. I can come up with two of them.

1. They can kill you.

2. They can lower the quality of life.

Some researchers now believe that marijuana can literally save your life. Its efficacy in fighting seizures and cancer may one day lead to marijuana-based drugs that cure some of the most serious and debilitating ailments humans suffer. However, I am more interested in exploring the plants relationship to that second answer.

Why is pain bad? Why is nausea bad? Are they intrinsically bad, or do they just create conditions in which negative reactions arise? We tend to think of things like pain as objective phenomena. Yet we are not objective creatures. Our relation to pain is that it is a subjective phenomena. Pain cripples us and prevents us from doing those things which bring quality to our life. It is not just the pain itself which affects us, but the cascade of effects we experience due to it. When we are in pain the main problem becomes that our lives are not very enjoyable.

For many people, being high on marijuana is incredibly enjoyable. Pot intoxication is quite often a very pleasant experience that enhances our quality of life. And when you are enjoying life, pain has less power over you. Pain can be lived with, so long as it does not prevent us from happiness. There are many people suffering ailments that come with a lifetime of pain. Back injuries can be a life sentence to discomfort and hurt. Where there is no cure for pain, we must stop focusing on it and instead consider those experiencing it. Should we not take seriously their quality of life since it has no objective factors we can study? Is their happiness not important, if only because it cannot be deductively examined through empirical methods?

Every medical condition lowers the quality of life. Every physical ailment and psychological trauma does the most damage by robbing us of the ability to enjoy living. So why do we only measure the objective links between pot and pain, and not the subjective ones?Our culture has become unhealthily obsessed with objectivity. It is one of the pitfalls of the rampant scientism which has become the religion of our industrial culture. Objectivity has become the myth of our times. We are subjective beings. We cannot experience an objective reality or truth, because even if it existed, it would have to make its way through our own subjective perceptions and interpretations. The entire reason that the need to create empirical methods such as science came about was to overcome our hopeless subjectivity by using disciplines which sought to explore questions about nature in objective terms. Yet falsification, a primary tenet of empirical science, illustrates that when that objectivity we use to question nature shows up in the answers, we are no longer doing science. Final answers are not the domain of empiricism. Objectivity is the path, not the destination.Now consider how this has effected our ideas about medicine. Think further into how it has colored our ideas about ‘recreational’ drugs. We have come to see the concepts of ‘medicine’ and ‘recreation’ as being unrelated. This, I believe, is an enormous error in thinking on our behalf. It is time to decompartmentalize our lives. We have needlessly separated feeling good and having a good time. The barriers we have erected in our lives have become obstacles to our own happiness and well being. It is time to think of our lives as an organic whole, in which our subjective experiences are just as (or perhaps more) meaningful than those mythological objective truths we have come to use like a weapon against our own happiness.

“When once they stalked deer, or crouched shivering in the mud for the flight of ducks to alight, or risked their lives in the crags after goats, or closed in with shouts upon a wild boar at bay- that was not work, though often the breath came hard and the limbs were heavy. When the women bore and nursed children, or wandered in the woods for berries and mushrooms, or tended fire at the entrance of the rock shelter- That was not work either.
So also, when they sang and danced and made love, that was not play. By the singing and the dancing the spirits of forest and water might be placated- a serious matter, though still one might enjoy the song and the dance. And as for the making of love, by that- and by the favor of the gods- the tribe was maintained.
So in the first years work and play mingled always, and there were not even words for one against the other.
But centuries flowed by and then more of them, and many things changed. Man invented civilization and was inordinately proud of it. But in no way did civilization change life than to sharpen the line between work and play, and at last that division had came to be more important than the old one between sleeping and waking. Sleep came to be thought a kind of relaxation, and “sleeping on the job” a heinous sin. The turning out of the light and the ringing of the alarm were not so much the symbols of man’s dual life as were the punching of the time clock and the blowing of the whistle. Men marched on picket lines and threw bricks and exploded dynamite to shift an hour from one classification to the other, and other men fought equally hard to prevent them. And always work became more laborious and odious, and play grew more artificial and febrile.”

Excerpt of ‘Earth Abides’ by George R. Stewart (1949)