Jul 23, 2013

A Guide to "LonelyHood".

I am Socially Awkward! Nothing new there... So how do you live a life with just a tolerable amount of interaction with other Humans? This post is a quick look at how one could engage into "LonelyHood".

Notice that I did not say loneliness, which is known as a psychological condition of constantly feeling alone and sad, even when hanging out with others. 

No! I define "LonelyHood" as a way of life, fulfilled and complete without dealing with Hell (you know, other people! Check out J.P. Sartre's No Exit): Forever Happy, Forever Alone!

Now that I hope we understand each other on the terminology, let's get to it.

1. Entertainment: Contrary to popular belief, going to the movie theater by yourself is not a sacrilege. Actually, if the reason is really to watch a movie, the only difference when with company, is that you get to comment about it at the end. The silence during the actual showing is the same. I do not understand the outrage over watching a movie alone! It was pretty common in past decades, but is considered anti-social now. This also applies to the stage theater. Obviously if you are into books, there is nothing like sitting on a couch and devouring a few pages; unless you watch a lot of TV like I do. Museums and public landmarks are also good friends for a "LoneAttitude".

2. Food and Well-being: You shall eat, with people or not... So why not alone? Home-cooked meals are probably the best way to do it! If not your thing, you can always get a delivery or pick-up. However if you feel like experiencing the ambiance of an actual restaurant, a restaurant-bar is definitely the way to go. Sit at the bar area, get some food and top that with your favorite beer or wine, and Voila! As long as you run away from fast and/or pre-processed food, there shouldn't be a problem. After all that food, go for a walk, a run, at the gym or whatever physical activity you can tolerate.

3. Travel: I personally never attempted this, but it's on my list and I've heard wonders about this experience. Travel all by yourself; Pack a bag, choose a destination with the items above, with a touristic outlook geared towards your interests (museums, parks, famous locations, broadway, etc...). Granted, it involves a little more spending and planning, but I'm convinced it will be well worth it.  

4. Do Nothing: This is my favorite. Sit or lay somewhere, outside if the weather permits and stare at the void for an hour. Add some music that you like if you are so inclined. It's bliss!

There are a lot more things like the above that can be applied. There are some obvious limitations. Do not do the following, in any circumstances:

    -  Get Drunk Alone: That's how you become an alcoholic!
    -  Bar, Club, Parties Alone: By design, these are meant for socializing. You will feel miserable!
    -  Indoor Concerts or live band (unless its outdoor lawn type of event, or you are REALLy a big fan).
    -  Stay indoors and Not communicate to people: A minimum of human interaction is required, just for your sanity and good measure. Don't stay for weeks in the basement watching movies and browsing the Internet. Go shoot some ball, run or sunbathe.

In Hindsight, this post is just Sad! Stay Alone my friends!

Mar 27, 2013

I Thank Thee

I have been meaning to post this for some time now. This was the dedication page of my Master Thesis.

To Thee for every drop— 
The bitter and the sweet. 

To Thee for the desert road, 
And for the riverside; 
For all Thy goodness hath bestowed, 
And all Thy grace denied. 

To Thee for both smile and frown, 
And for the gain and loss; 
To Thee for the future crown 
And for the present cross. 

To Thee for both wings of love 
Which stirred my worldly nest; 
And for the stormy clouds which drove 
Me, trembling, to Thy breast. 

Adapted from “I Thank Thee” – Jane Crewdson (1850)

Feb 24, 2013

The Burden of Humility

I don't like when people sing my praises. I would hate being nominated for an academy award or being recognized in front of a large crowd (or any crowd for that matter). To avoid these situations, I tend to under perform, under appreciate my own strengths while heightening my weaknesses. Some people call this being humble, I say its what an insecure and scared little brat with psychological issues would do (wow, went a little strong there...).

Anyway, my concern with humility is the fact that the subject is more often than not, aware that he is skilled and deserves recognition. Although taking humble stances seem noble, I recently learned that there is an inherent desire/ need (at least for me), for other parties to be aware of the skill. In some cases, it can turn into an obsession. The result is not pretty, borderline nightmarish: illusions of grandeur coupled with "humility".

Solution: "Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris.". When truly deserved, no humility at all. Advertise your successes and insist on getting credit for  your efforts. However, failures should be treated the same way: acknowledgement and honesty. 

Well, this post doesn't make much sense... Lesson of the day: Don't blog when you have been abruptly taken off of your pedestal and brought back to Earth! Unless you are Mark Zuckerberg :).

Jan 21, 2013

Fighting Temptations

Taking resolutions when a new year comes or at specific moments in our lives (such as the end of fasting seasons or a wedding anniversary) is common practice these days. We say and hear people say things like "I am going to lose weight", "I will be more friendly", "I will call my mom regularly", "No more cigarettes/liquor/drugs for me". However, in most of these cases, results are short-lived or nonexistent and more and more we seem to be expecting less and less of ourselves: The temptations are just too great!

The concept of temptation itself might shed a light into what is going on here.  It is a little bit of an oxymoron, since succumbing to a temptation generally results in both a quick but intense satisfaction and a long-lived more permanent inconvenience, be it moral, physical or cognitive. For the fans of Conditioning in Psychology, it can be compared to using a strong positive reinforcement and a mild negative reinforcement to teach the same behavior.

Fighting the desire that a temptation brings therefore depends on how strong the instant gratification is, compared to how drastic the negative consequences can be, coupled with the subject's "will power". You probably already realized that the use of the term temptation to describe a desire implies awareness to some degree of the existence of the inconvenience, otherwise nothing would stop you. The problem lies in the fact that the risk associated with the negative consequence is generally underestimated, often misunderstood and constantly taken lightly until the moment the feeling of regret kicks in. 

The most common way of dealing with temptation is to reduce the frequency/importance of the desired behavior: "Common, it's just one doughnut, It won't kill me", "I will only drink socially". This method induces a constant struggle and "will power" here is key. Where it fails is in the fact that, like all addictions, the instant gratification becomes more acute when restarting a behavior after letting it go momentarily, meanwhile awareness of the negative consequence gets repressed.  

One way of dealing with temptations is complete abstinence! Abstaining from the behavior, thus abandoning pleasure, to effectively eliminate any possibility of pain. This is  very improbable, actually closer to the impossible, as the world we live in today is more hedonistic/epicurean than ever (philosophies based on the premise that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that if something is good, it outta be pleasurable. This can be illustrated by this line from the Epic of Gilgamesh "Fill your belly. Day and night make merry. Let days be full of joy. Dance and make music day and night" - Gotta love Wikipedia).

I will live you with these thought-provoking words from St Augustine: 

"Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation".

Is it better though? That is my question. All I know for sure is that being tempted is not the best situation in the world and at least Jesus seem to corroborate this since in the Lord's Prayer he proposed, you can read the following: "[...] And lead us not into Temptation, but deliver us from evil [...]".

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