Christmas rant

I’ve ranted about this a lot outside the public sphere of the internet, but since ranting energy is still strong, posting it here might alleviate it a bit also.

I’ve not been an adult that can afford to buy many Christmas presents for a very long time. Maybe about 8 years. Last year I had hardly any money for Christmas presents, but I felt alright about the concept. I don’t recall feeling like I do now. Which is: wanting to boycott the entire consumerist aspect of it.

And frustration, because you bloody hell can’t. How do I just stop giving presents when other people give me presents? It’d be terribly rude. And so many people are stuck in the same cage, are they not? There are probably families where no one enjoys the Christmas shopping madness, but there isn’t that one person to speak out and say “Let’s call it quits”. This consumerism is just making everything so soulless.

It might be possible to solve this problem when you say that you don’t want Christmas presents from anyone and won’t be making any yourself either. I think there are families and groups of friends where this rule applies.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work for me that well. I like making presents SOMETIMES. And I want to continue making presents that come truly from the heart. When I see something ideally suited to someone, I want to be able to give this person this present. And I want to be able to do it so that others don’t get offended, when only one person gets a present that year. I also want to be able to make presents that cost little and not feel pressurised to buy more not to appear cheap. Because you know, sometimes the thing that costs little comes from the heart and the rest is just fluff to add financial bulk. I wish it wasn’t so.

Often enough, I cannot think of anything good to give people or the stores have nothing tempting. I’d gladly skip a year then, rather than give them my best attempt at a Christmas present out of a sense of obligation.

I don’t really know what compromise would be possible. I don’t enjoy Christmas shopping and I want to get off that particular train, but when you want to retain the right to sometimes make and receive presents, it makes it very hard to effect.  Because people do get hurt if they get nothing for several years in a row.

Maybe I’ll have a bright idea by next Christmas, but if I don’t, I think I’ll just go with trying to opt out fully and hope I will be tolerated for it. I’ll appeal to my principles as a moderate anti-consumerist, I guess. Although it is more about it just not feeling right and irking me with its soullessness.

I want giving and receiving to feel right. I’ve been so much happier and full of joy when people I expected no presents from have given me something simple. Like truly simple. A gingerbread heart from a teacher who likes you and wants to cheer you up is a worth so much more than anything more expensive gotten from family members because they “had to”. Gingerbread hearts like that are ‘true presents’. Given without expecting anything for return, not even at the back of your mind.

What I want is, I want to experience surprise and joy that someone has bothered to make me a present, not take it as a matter of course. I want THAT back. The soul of it back. And that comes from the freedom not to and the freedom to. But try making it happen….

The unmentionable

I can’t believe how I’ve been deceived by my moods. You grow up, as a teenager, reading 19th century and early 20th century psychologists, you think subconscious is terribly important. Then you graduate into adulthood and modern-day psychology and think reason is everything and mind is mouldable. But then wham, subconscious strikes back.

I have been feeling quite well this autumn. I don’t have any anxiety or stress. I have money again and don’t have to deal with not being able to afford soap, like this time last year. Today, I even experienced a totally mad impulse of offering financial aid to a person who I only know by reading her blog. She seemed to need it for a greater cause than I could ever find. I resisted the impulse this time around. The buffer is not yet strong enough. I guess I was just fancying myself to be Jean Valjean and wanted to feel more like I’ve done something good to other people too.

I found November enchanting in its early days. There had been so much sunshine this summer and autumn that when darkness came, it was romantic. One warm evening, I went for an unplanned stroll by the seaside and it was magical, the darkness, the belt of stars, the distant murmur of waves. A little eerie too as you could not see where the sea actually begun. So – too brave steps and splash, your feet would be in it. That was pretty glorious.

I knew my ability to deal with winter darkness could be a bit poor, so in September, I planned many activities for myself to keep the bad moods and anxiety at bay. I haven’t needed them. I don’t think I’ve felt as mentally strong as I do now at any point in the last three years.

Side by side to it, I have not done anything at all outside of work and my programming course. I’ve put life on hold and have recently developed strong avoidant tendencies regarding conflict and disruption. I put things off because the pause in life is better than the certain disruption/misery. And in the waiting room, it’s okay.

But it seems that, as I feel I don’t need anything, I have, unbeknownst to myself, ran out of life energy. That I’m actually deeply depressed. I may have shut myself into my cosy, soft-music-and-warm-blankets waiting room, but my subconscious is fully aware, in spite of my attempts to guide my brain to think otherwise or not think about it at all, that behind both doors is misery. I do know I cannot stay in the waiting room but opening either door, knowing full well I will be unhappy either way, it’s understandable I delay in the only place that feels good.

But the point is that I totally managed to deceive myself. I thought that I was doing really well for someone with my life, I had never had such a stress- and anxiety-free autumn in recent years. I had many days of glee and most days seemed neutral. Nothing bad happened. So you know, one thinks this is good.

I had this passing thought earlier that even dying would not cause much of a reaction or resistance in me now. Like, I just don’t care. And that was the eye-opener. That I was not okay. That I’m simply having a different kind of depression from the usual kind. A more passive, silent fading-away. As fading-aways go, it’s not that bad. It’s bad when you resist and fight it. But as I don’t have the energy for that, well, it’s a very strange mood and type of depression, deceptively feel-good.

Such is life sometimes. Now back to my soft blanket.

200 degrees

As a rule, I’m a slow reader. If the book is not gripping or I need anaesthesia to read it, I’m very slow. So this is an event worth recording that the other day I achieved 560 pages in 3 days.

I do love my intensity and being drawn totally into something. Shame it happens so rarely.

I want to get to the point where I can write with the same intensity that I can read.

KK

I had not heard of Klaus Kinski much before, but by the usual criss-crossing paths of the internet, I ended up watching one video of him having a tantrum in the park.

Then I got fairly obsessive in trying to find out more about him.

Finally, I put on my Fitzcarraldo, which I had paused in the middle to indulge my obsession. And thing is, I shut it down pretty fast. I could not watch it.

Background: I don’t know what is normal behaviour, but I feel things first. This means I have sometimes absolutely no idea why I feel or react in certain ways. I have to retrace my steps and analyse it afterwards to try and figure it out. It can happen that I don’t manage to explain all reactions and emotions in the end either. And I think this reaction to the Fitzcarraldo movie is one of my failures.

But I will put down some scattered thoughts on Klaus, empathy and mental health.

Klaus Kinski is not a nice person.  He is quite a horrible person. I can rationally see it, but that first video of him made me feel a lot of empathy for him, and I think that has escalated since. No matter how many times my rational brain section tells me that my empathy for him is misplaced, it does not work. Watching those videos of him where people seemed to deliberately provoke him into having a tantrum so they could be amused – that was heartbreaking really. It was done like a modern day freak show, and I think he was intelligent enough to sense it. There’s just some kind of extreme vulnerability in him, like a wild animal, ever vigilant, constantly perceiving attacks against himself and choosing to attack first. His entire megalomania was just to hide his non-existent self-esteem. I think that probably inspires my irrational empathy. I feel that somewhere in that chaos and monstrosity is ….a lot deserving of sympathy. I tried to name that ‘something’, but it seems truer to abstain.

But but. I truly thought the act of molesting one’s children would override my empathy. It feels embarrassing after the tirades I’ve made against pedophiles and old people that pray on teenagers/very young adults to let one slip through the net. That is the downside of being empathy-driven rather than sympathy-driven. Empathy can be silly and amoral.

Why I shut that movie down. I think I felt he was playing himself. Why I could not handle it, I don’t know.

I do think though that it is a good thing that he was able to do these wonderful roles (which I cannot watch at this point, lol) instead of being isolated from society because of his paranoid schizophrenia.

It’s a curious paradox that in times when mental illness treatment was even worse than in our age and where people with illnesses were basically isolated from society compared to the modern attempts at inclusion, well, in those times people with some mental health problems were frequently much more included. Those with minor stuff, I mean. Those that could basically function because they had normal intellect and their quirks or delusions did not make them dysfunctional on a large scale. Now, there is too much defining of people through their illnesses and everyone with a minor divergence is already ‘out’. Upside is they get help, but I think true inclusion happens when one stops being ‘visible’, i.e. forcibly included. When people like Klaus Kinski or any highly-functioning autist are not “ill”, but just with an alternative way of interpreting the world, like artists and scientists. I  feel like the world, with all its talk of diversity, is making the bounds of normality a lot narrower than they used to be because every difference is turned into a pathology requiring treatment.

Favourite lines

Who wants to be consistent? The dullard and the doctrinaire, the tedious people who carry out their principles to the bitter end of action, to the reductio ad absurdum of practice. Not I. Like Emerson, I write over the door of my library the word “Whim.”

 

 

Zeitgeist is a very suspicious thing

The more I read stuff and observe stuff, the more I feel that zeitgeist is a lie, an over-simplification like gender. Something we cling to for its clarity as it makes the world appear logical and coherent, but which is really narrow-minded and limiting. Half the population sometimes does not live accordingly. I think that’s significant.

Anti-consumerist ramblings

I can’t say I identify as an anti-consumerist at this point, but I’ve had such leanings for several years and I see them growing stronger. Sometimes it is a little bit frightening. I don’t actually want to become the spoilsport activist who goes around loudly disapproving of things that other people enjoy or are not educated enough not to enjoy. If I were to go down that route, I’d like it to be my personal thing, like religion is personal to a lot of people, except the fundamentalists and those that desire to convert everyone.

Its roots are probably in my slightly animistic thinking, love of nature and general sentimentality. I like items to be special, have a story to tell. People who mindlessly consume do seem to lose the ability to enjoy simple things. They would  need even greater luxury or greater quantities to feel an item is special. I kind of want to preserve my joy over simple things, so I wouldn’t want to numb my senses with overconsumption to mindless levels.

This modern trend of very expensive weddings and engagement rings, for example, is completely incomprehensible to me. I’m not going to criticise it either because I just don’t understand it. It clearly matters to many people to have things in their wedding that cost a lot but why it matters so much is a bit of….I wouldn’t want to draw the obvious conclusion. There are very few people like me who’d be okay with a 1 euro ring too if it had personal significance. I said I was a sentimentalist, I did.

So I’d like to think that my consumption levels are not very high compared to the averages of today. They are not admirably low either, though. I like pretty things a lot and pretty clothes, so my closet is not minimalist and is never going to be. However, I do find it very satisfying when whatever items I’ve bought get a good amount of use. I feel good throwing away shoes that have become unuseable because the signs of wear are really bad. I do not feel good throwing away perfectly good quality items, though. Those I take to recycling or second hand store collection points. Sometimes I turn some items into sewing projects too. And generally tend to try to find alternative uses for things if I can think of them.

I would not mind living in a world where clothes were so expensive that you could only afford a few, like it was the case in the 19th century.

I am spoilt and like having a lot of choice at this point, but I could live like this too if I made up my mind to it and set it as a goal, and I admire people who do already, unless they are annoying fundamentalists who think everyone who cannot live like them is a worthless human being.

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I’m truly frustrated with the amount of fake materials used in nearly every industry. I would really love to buy high-quality ethically-made natural-material based products. I think very many people would love to. For some the cost may be a stumbling block, but an even greater stumbling block is the lack of such products and how hard it is to find them on the market. If one goes down that route, it becomes your entire life to seek out such products. And that is a point for pause and reflection on one’s priorities.

Basically, to buy high quality, you need to become very, very informed. With clothing it is a little bit easier because there aren’t too many things to look for – just avoid fake materials, like polyester, and seek for brands that manufacture their clothing sustainably, do not use toxic chemicals and so forth. However, the massive problem with such brands for me is that I simply do not like their designs. I’ve looked sometimes, but have not found anything that I would want to buy. Not to mention that brands like that are not available in department stores and if you live in a small country, like me, you would need to order such clothes abroad.

If these brands made more stylish/interesting/feminine/cute clothing and would become more widely available, I’d be a sure customer, but as is the case now, I shop in the same stores everyone else does and hope for the best. What I would never buy are H&M jeans though. The smell of those things is vile. If an item fails even the smell test, then it is very bad indeed. Samsung fridges also smell vile and some washing machines and kettles. I actually bought my current fridge because it was one of the few that didn’t stink to high heaven.

Is this a normal situation?! Couldn’t we just double the prices of everything, give up the attitude that everyone needs 50 items of clothing and all modern tech, AND actually go back to offering high quality again, so shopping isn’t about picking the least offensive item.

I’m moving from the easier to the more complex in terms of how informed you need to be – next step is food. Awareness of chemicals and unnecessary additives is increasing, but it is definitely tiresome that a person has to turn shopping into a battle of intelligence against producers that try to sell you crap. Anyhow, at this point, I’ve not managed to learn everything yet. Some years ago, I didn’t know that palm oil was bad, for example. It looks natural enough on a label compared to E620. There are plenty of things I don’t know now either. And even if I know what is good quality, how am I supposed to access it when no store stocks French fries without palm oil? (Not buying them is not an option all the time because I cannot cook everything from scratch, and yes, I’ve tried many times, I’m just horrible at cooking vegetables). Also, how can I be sure when buying from a local farmer (who is not a personal acquaintance) that they haven’t soaked their fruit and vegetables in chemicals either? If I want to avoid plastic, how can I be sure that in transporting fruit and vegetables to a packaging-free store, massive amounts of plastic have not been used which only got removed in the store? All in all, I have kind of given up trying because clean food is very hard to access, choice is very limited and there is rarely certainty. It only seems possible to eat clean, high-quality food if you grow it yourself. Until I can do that, I just choose the less bad alternatives from whatever is available.

My pathetic attempt to grow things myself on the balcony

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Cosmetics industry requires an education in chemistry to manage to make informed choices. Organic labels help, but are not always sufficient indicators of quality. There is a lot of greenwashing going on, with brands advertising themselves as pure and natural, but having SLS as the second ingredient. If you learn that silicones (things ending with -cone, like dimethicone), parabens and sulphates (particularly sodium laureth sulphate) are bad, you’ve passed grade 1 in orienteering in cosmetics, but it is only the beginning.

It is very much a matter of priorities and convenience too. A lot of the products marketed to us are not really necessary, why would a person need separate moisturisers for their feet and hands, for example? And everyone knows how cellulite got turned into a cosmetic problem so that people could be marketed anti-cellulite treatments. It is actually possible to get all your cosmetics from nature, from the fridge, but since we’ve grown up with getting them out of plastic bottles, it is very hard to rethink it and these things may not work for everyone.

Once again, I’m not there at all myself either. I don’t buy supermarket stuff, I generally buy organic, but that’s as far as I’ve currently gone. My hair is very difficult, so after years of trying with absolutely everything, from medical and organic shampoos to egg and yoghurt, I’m currently using a shampoo with SLS as the second ingredient. It’s a medical shampoo and there isn’t any alternative to it for me, as much as I’d rather like to use something a lot milder.

I think this is the case for very many people in their attempts to turn more ‘natural’, to prioritize quality and sustainability. First, it is so very hard to get that informed to even know what is good. Secondly, when you do know a bit, finding products that meet all your preferred criteria, without causing a massive drop in quality of life, is like finding the holy grail. The compromises one has to make are too great for very many people. I honestly don’t know what I’d end up eating at all if I tried to go one month fully organic/plastic-free. I could probably manage to improve considerably in the clothes & household items & cosmetics department, but not food.

The thing I can see myself improving in is actual attitude to consumption, which is what I began this long essay with. I have become increasingly more disinclined to buy stuff I do not absolutely need and frequently try to think of creative alternatives. Because what we think we “need” is often social pressure and skilful marketing. Spotting that and realizing you don’t actually need it can be like a fun game. But giving up frozen fries and all sweets containing palm oil is just too hard for lack of alternatives and would make life a misery for me. Perhaps there will come a time when it will not feel so, who knows.

When I hear consumerist people talking about my kind of life choices, they often use the same argument – that such a life would be misery if you could not have all that stuff and comfort of modernity. I do not view myself as lacking though. I truly don’t care and feel pleased with myself for having a mind of my own about what I “need”.

With “things” I do see potential for social change. It is probably utopian but I think an attitude change could work: if the cheapest dress cost 300 EUR in Western countries, people would pick it carefully and treasure it more, instead of buying a pile of 10-euro dresses. Same goes for every other item. There would be less need to produce that much because people can only afford few. There would be less waste and everything would be better quality because that would be prioritized again. Perhaps with the environmental crisis we are facing, such measures could be introduced: i.e. very strict quality requirements that would drive up prices. But with overpopulation, the food problem cannot really be solved in any way. Food has to be cheap so people can afford it and it is not possible to produce quality food on such scale, as sad as that may be. Making locally sourced food more easily available in supermarkets is possible, though. It’s depressing how they keep selling foreign mass-produced apples when we are having an apple season and there is an excess of them in all gardens….

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Lord of the Rings

I don’t think I’ve read Lord of the Rings as an adult. Nineteen does not count. So it was interesting to re-read it and see what I’d spot for myself this time around.

Aragorn

I was a little bit disappointed in Aragorn, who used to be my great favourite as a teenager. Teenagers think more simplistically, but to my current self, Aragorn was just too full of himself to make him entirely likeable. He is clearly modelled on the great epic heroes of the past, but to a modern reader, these great epic heroes seem implausible, self-important, narcissistic, sometimes morally dubious (not the case with Aragorn, but look at the heroes of some myths and legends). Aragorn had self-doubt, determination, strength and he was a good person, but he was also self-important. That scene at Theoden’s palace where he refused to put down his sword was very unflattering. As a guest, you obey the rules of the host, not go into a tantrum and talk about what a special sword you got and how you are not leaving it behind the door like people with inferior swords have to. There were other instances where he used his status unflatteringly in the “Do you know who I am?!” style. Yes, that is the epic hero style, but I couldn’t fully admire him because of this.

Faramir

Instead, I ended up admiring Faramir. If I had to choose an ideal king, I’d choose him. He had the strength and wisdom of Aragorn, but also he was humble and gentler. Many might mistake this gentleness for weakness, as had done his father Denethor, but I’m not that sort of a person. Gentle + strong is like my absolute ideal of (male) humanity.

Denethor

Denethor I either disliked or did not think much of upon first reading, but now I found myself feeling a lot of sympathy for his tragedy.

Gandalf

I felt rather ambivalent about him and sometimes found myself agreeing with Denethor or Saruman in their assessment of Gandalf’s activities. He seemed to be able to know or quite strongly guess how things would turn out.  So then, why would he send Frodo to Mordor, knowing full well it would destroy him so he could never live in the Shire again? There just was something disturbing in how he used others as his pawns. Yes, it was done with good intentions to save Middle Earth for future generations, but he also orchestrated who and what gets destroyed in the process….If he had not guessed the outcomes and the bad stuff just happened, while he tried his best, it would be different. But to knowingly sacrifice? If Tolkien had described Gandalf’s self-doubt and disinclination to do it, he’d be fully redeemed in my eyes. Because sometimes all you got is rotten choices and then you just choose the greater good and try to cause minimal harm to your pawns, but there was none or little of that in the books. He did end up destroying his own power in the process as well, but I think Gandalf was not really of Middle Earth anyway, so him leaving it felt a lot more natural than Frodo leaving it.

Ents

I really liked ents. I liked them just as much as the first time around and those chapters were among my favourites.

Hobbits

Frodo I came to understand in a more nuanced way. He’s an INFP like me.

Monsters

I also very much enjoyed orcs and uruks bickering with each other. They function like comic relief in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Loved those chapters.

Blogging + lying vol. 2

There we go. Got rid of some posts I no longer liked polluting this space.

I’ve enjoyed gradually developing my own style of keeping a blog. When I started out,  the way I approached a blog as a medium was as something much more pre-defined. When a text goes up in a blog, that’s it. The end. You may correct a spelling mistake, but what’s up, stays up, in the way it went up. I’ve moved away from this to a more fluid approach. A kind of mind diary, with chapters I can sometimes re-read and decide that a) I’ve used that exact phrase twice! How embarrassing. Delete one. b) That post is badly written/too personal/too stupid/total drivel. Delete entire post. c) That photo is no good. Delete. Replace. d) Hmm. This needs a post script. Write it. e) This needs a paragraph added. Write it. f) That sentence is badly written/too personal/too stupid. Delete. g) This post in the trash folder is quite good after all. Publish again.

I do that a lot, really. A kind of delayed perfectionism. At first anything goes up and I’m not very critical but later I like to polish things. It’s a great tactic for any kind of writing, by the way. Highly recommended for perfectionists who want that first paragraph perfect and spend enormous amounts of time getting nowhere. Do your polishing later.

And of course the content has developed over the years too, and has become ……more authentic? If I want to write a one-line post, I do that. If I want to write a longer one, I do that.

Lying Vol. 2

I wrote about being one of the liars of the world, the fantasist, the dramatist, the exaggerator. The thing with this is that it is other people that think I’m exaggerating or being blind to the truth. I don’t think that. I believe in it all at the moment of telling/experiencing it. Sometimes with every nerve cell, sometimes with half.  That’s my authentic self. I can turn on my highly analytical mindset and then I do see that, well, maybe things aren’t quite like that. But at the moment of experiencing or telling it, I’m perfectly frank.

Actual lying, and that thing that gets classified under politeness but is closer to manipulation, is very hard for me. It seems to require a lot of social energy, which I don’t have oodles of to begin with. I knew a guy once who was always telling me what rubbish colleagues he has. One day he showed me a reference letter he had written for one of them upon being asked. It was the most glowingly positive reference letter. I was confused. How can one manage that while disliking the person?! That is the sort of lying I have no aptitude for. I would have at best written a coldly positive letter – no glow, no superlatives, no style (because no inspiration), but positive enough in a formal sort of way.

The best I manage in situations of that kind is being civil. If I think someone’s new hairdo is unflattering and they ask me for an opinion, I will say, “It’s nice, glad you like it”. I won’t say “Oh my god, you look so beautiful with this. Wow!”. That’s terrible. I don’t know what would have to happen for me to manage to fake a reaction like that. I’d need to prepare for this like Elizabeth rehearses her surprised reaction for Hyacinth’s table decor in Keeping up Appearances. And I’d feel sick at myself for having to resort to this.

I do struggle with this sort of social lying if it goes beyond what is necessary to avoid hurting someone. At the receiving end of it, I’m quite gullible also. Since I usually don’t express things I don’t mean at the time of expressing them, I don’t assume it of others either.

I thought this was an important addition to the lying subject.