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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

On Jadism

The idea behind this post started the same as any other.

I was pursuing the educated and well-informed opinions of the Urban Dictionary--

when I stumbled on this gem. The term was "jadism," a made up Internet word that my spellchecker keeps insisting I spelled wrong. The term "jadism" simply refers to the concept of being jaded. One might ask why the word even exists, or what purpose it serves, when the word "jaded" already exists, but I think it's a more than necessary word that needs no justifying.

I've always held the belief that words serve a vital purpose, in that they enable the user to grasp abstract concepts.

Take the word "Fissileg" for example. The German word refers to when a normally competent person is being watched and nagged so closely that they get flustered and annoyed to the point of incompetence.

The whole "I can do it when they aren't watching" concept. Anyone who's ever been even remotely self-conscious about job performance and has experienced an overbearing boss has experienced "fissileg," but there has never been a word in the English language to describe it. That doesn't mean that it couldn't be explained in English words (as I have just done), but it would take a long-winded explanation instead of a single word, and the existence of a word immediately justifies its meaning.

Oftentimes if there's a word for a certain concept, phenomenon, or feeling, we naturally assume it's because it's common enough to warrant a word describing it.

One funny example is the Indonesian word "Mencolek," which is when you tap someone on their opposite shoulder when someone is standing next to them to make them think the other person tapped their shoulder.

That might sound oddly specific and not at all worthy of its own word, but it's not some Indonesian thing. When I was in middle and elementary school kids did this to each other all the time, and California is pretty different from Indonesia, so it's fair to assume a lot of kids do this joke.

Unrelated but here's a funny comic strip I like:

Let's just pretend it doesn't say "Buzzfeed" in the corner.
I couldn't find it anywhere on the Internet no matter how many variations of "light falling through leaves word" I googled, but there's a word in a foreign language (I think it might have been German) that refers to what you see on the ground when light cascades through tree leaves onto the ground. You know, the leaf-pattern shadows.

Why doesn't English have a word for that?

Anyway, if a word exists, it must exist for a reason (if it's actually used by anyone, at least), so the mere existence of a word makes its meaning prevalent. With fewer words, we grasp fewer concepts.

One quote that's often attributed to Einstein (but if you do the research, virtually every single "Einstein" quote was actually said by someone else, including the famous "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" quote, which was actually found in an old book of Narcotics Anonymous. Another quote that every uniformed monkey on the Internet attributes to Einstein is the famous line, "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid." That line was actually stolen from an obscure self-help book written by Matthew Kelly. In fact if you see any picture of a famous historical figure and a quote next to it, the odds of it being that person's quote is less likely than you winning the lottery or me getting a book deal) is the line, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand the concept well enough."

Einstein never said that, he never said anything close to that, but it's a good line--a true one, at least.

Although it's not merely the ability to explain something in a certain amount of words, but being able to explain it in as few as possible; and the fewer words there are available, the harder it becomes to describe things that we partially understand.

Just for shits and giggles though, let's have a look at some other famous historical quotes.

Alright, back to the subject.

"Jadism" is a necessary word because the quality of being jaded is an increasing epidemic. I myself often fall prey to the noxious cloud of jadism that permeates every corner of America right now. I blame twitter--that steaming pile of dogshit is nothing but a circle-jerk of outrage and apathy. The caustic culture of scandals and outrage has reached a toxic critical mass that I thought only 4chan and Tumblr were capable of, but I digress. I just like bitching sometimes, I'm no better than the people I complain about. I mean there's an obvious hypocrisy when someone like me bitches about people constantly bitching on the Internet, but at least I'm self-aware so that makes me better somehow.

Although I think twitter is the byproduct of a larger systematic issue, that being "outrage culture." You could surely make a case that "outrage" is extremely different from "jadism," and you would be correct. What I'm saying is that outrage leads to jadism, or at least to more outrage. The Immutable Law of Internet Outrage (which I just coined) states that when a person or group of people reach OCM, or outrage critical mass, only one of two things can happen; either they continue to be more and more outraged for perpetuity (SJWs), or they become jaded and apathetic (doomers).

Although there is certainly a lot of in-between; SJWs are always outraged and doomers are always pessimistic and think the world is hopeless.

When people who aren't SJWs see all the constant outrage and absurdity on the Internet, things said and done by real people, they naturally come to the conclusion that the world is fucked and they might as well stop caring. Although, there are some who reach a revelation; that being that not everything warrants outrage nor does everything warrant apathy.

Two movies that encapsulate these ideas perfectly are Falling Down (1993) and Office Space (1999). I think one of the reasons I didn't like Joker (2019) was that it felt like it was trying too hard to be edgy, and was too dramatic in how it portrayed his backstory to the point of being stupid. I think Falling Down and Office Space do a much better job of portraying the same idea. That being that regular adult life is absolutely soul-crushing for most people.

Obviously not everyone hates their job, but certainly more than a healthy amount of people do. I wouldn't expect a perfect society where everyone loves their super fulfilling job, that's just not going to happen; but one would have to be extraordinarily out of touch to think that most regular people don't have to deal with the stuff in Office Space and Falling Down. While some aspects were obviously exaggerated for comedy, most of the things in Office Space were real-life examples. In fact the movie was so influential that lots of people wrote to Ron Livingston telling him that they quit their soul-crushing cubicle job after watching the movie, and lots of managers and office supervisors were offended by the movie and would punish employees if one of them put an Office Space poster up somewhere in the office because it was seen as an insult or a sign of rebellion, but of course the irony went right over their heads.

Many people don't know this, but TGI Fridays used to do the "flair" thing that Joanna loathes so much in the movie. For the uninitiated, in Office Space there's several running gags, and one of them is the "flair." Basically the employees at Joanna's diner have to wear a certain number of colorful buttons called "flair" to "express themselves." Joanna wears 15 different buttons on her uniform, which is the minimum amount of flair, and her condescending boss keeps passive-aggressively telling her to wear more flair but each time she says "So you want me to wear more buttons?" he says something like "Well, 15 is the minimum, but do you really only want to do the minimum?"

Apparently this stupid trend was something that lots of places forced onto servers and waitresses in the 90s, and after Office Space came out TGI Fridays removed the flair rule that they had in place. One customer asked what happened to the flair and a waitress said, "It's because of that Office Space movie."

Passive-aggressiveness is something that runs rampant in the American workplace. It's one of the most odious and abrasive aspects of working in many jobs. Any young person who's ever worked food or retail has their share of this experience, and the movie does a great job in making parallels between Joanna's job and Peter's, even though he works in computer engineering and she works in food. Even though their jobs are completely different in essentially every way, somehow they have the same condescending PoS as a boss.

In my Cartoons post I mentioend Squidward as an example and I think that still holds up. If you pay attention to the old reviews of the movie when it first came out, a lot of people didn't like Office Space. Most people didn't really get it; the humor didn't land and the pacing seemed off. A lot of people thought the movie was boring, and it didn't do well at the box office.

But then, after five or ten years give or take, it had a cult following. Where did the following come from? Well, Spongebob holds the answer. What makes Spongebob click for millenials is that when  we watched the show as a kid, we were Spongebob; but when we watch it today, we're Squidward. The episodes that aired during those first three seasons haven't changed, but we've changed enough to see it through a completely different lense.

Yet, Office Space did this on a much bigger scale. When people first watched the movie in theaters in 1999, it seemed almost like a boring documentary on office and the humor didn't make much sense, but now all of American society has become just jaded and sick of their mundane lives to get it. Several of the various reviews I watched for the film all said the same thing--something along the lines of, "I watched this movie 20 years ago and didn't like it, but I watched it again today and I lvoed it."

This sentiment comes from the fact that mundane and underployment (soul-crushing jobs that anyone can do, regardless of skills; things like holding a sign outside, being a telemarketer, going door-to-door to pass out Mormom pamphlets, retail cashier, etc.) jobs have expanded enough for most average Americans to understand what it's like having a Bill Lumbergh for a boss, or getting chastised by a coterie of sterile, talentless hacks who make one figure more money for 1/10th of the work, or working at TGI Fridays and having some condescending 22-year-old lecturing them on not having enough flair because of some arbitrary rule on wearing buttons.

The movie was so accurate in its portrayal of the uninspired and insipid workplace that hanging an Office Space poster in your cubicle was seen as an act of defiance or rebellion, and a lot of employers banned it. You can tell it hit close to home if that many managers felt personally attacked by a movie poster.
"Hey, uhhh, listen, buddy... about that poster in your workspace...."
Just to make this clear, this post is in no way anti-work or anti-workplace, just those types of workplaces. You know the kind; the ones where you feel your spirits crushed beneath a grindstone of monotony and failure.

There are definitely good ones out there, but it sure seems like they're becoming scarce. Some polls say as many as 85% of people hate their job, which seems a little too high to me, but others say 70% which sounds completely plausible. Are these numbers anecdotal? Surely, yes. Many of these polls only involve a couple hundred people or less, sometimes not even that. I've seen dubious claims made by "professional and reliable" polls that, turned out, to only be a poll of 30 people who live in the same neighborhood. Hardly a good sample size.

That being said, around 70% sounds more than reasonable. Odds are if you were to round up 10 of your friends from different age groups and ask them if they hated their job, at least five would probably say yes (assuming you don't all work at the same awesome company or something).

I've seen pretentious answers on Quora (don't even get me started on those pseudo-intellectual a-holes) claiming that most of these people don't hate their "job," they just hate one or two aspects of their job and conflate their dislike for those one or two aspects with dislike for the job itself.

But if you see where I'm going with this, that doesn't add up--and it just so happens Office Space explains why.

First we must look at an imposing philosophical question; what is your job? I mean, if you have a job you probably know what it is, but if someone saying they hate their job likely means they actually just hate one or two aspects of that job and not the job itself, then what would a person need to hate in order to candidly say that they hate their actual job?

Is it the work itself? Is it their pay? Is it their coworkers, or the customers they interact with? Is it the difficulty of the job? Or maybe the traffic en route of the job?

Well, as Office Space kindly points out, every job exists in gestalt. You see, one may argue that you don't hate the nebulous vague concept of your job, just that one aspect that annoys you; but if that one annoying aspect makes up 80% of your experience at said job, then I'd argue the mere fact that you're exposed to it 80% of the time means it's an integral part of the job itself.

If that sounds like gibberish (which it kinda does in my head), just watch this short clip which summarizes everything perfectly.

Every single moment he spends at work he has to listen to the receptionist repeatedly saying, "Corporate accounts pay-able Ni-na speakiiiing, just a moooomeeent."

One could argue that the annoying receptionist is just one aspect of the job, and that hating that part of the job isn't the same as hating the job itself, and to that, I have but one rebuttable:

If you change one nail on a ship, and all else is the same, is it still the same ship? Yes? Well, what if we also changed a broken plank? And if yes, how many nails and planks have to be changed before it becomes a new ship? If we changed every single wood plank and nail on a ship, so that every single part of the ship is gradually replaced, is it still the same ship? And if not, at what point does it become a different ship?

Now let us ask this question with jobs; if hating one aspect of the job isn't the same as hating the job itself, how many "aspects" of the job must one hate before they hate the job itself? Two? Three? Forty-seven? All of them?

The thing about Office Space is that Peter hates every aspect of his job. The commute, the work itself, his boss, his schedule, his coworkers, all of it. He says in one clip:

So what about that? If you consider each day at your job to be the worst day of your life, does that indicate the person hates their job? If we assume the answer is "yes," then what if they're utterly miserable everyday at their job, but it's not literally the worst day of their life? Does that mean they don't actually hate their job? I'd say living in misery is more than enough to say they do.

What if they don't live in misery everyday of their job, but most of the time they're miserable there, and the rest of the time is only OK? I'd say the same thing--they still hate their job.

You get the picture. The problem with the "it's not the job itself that they hate" argument is that no one could say for certain what the job itself even is. Couldn't one say that jobs are greater than the sum of their parts, and can be described only by the overall experience of working there? If that's the case, then hating that experience is enough to say you hate your job.

Now, it's not just jobs that do this--although I believe underemployment and bad jobs are a major culprit. This is because jobs and school are pretty much the only constant factor in most peoples' lives, so if one or both of those things are awful experiences, then that person will be in constant misery.

Although the titular protagonist Peter does say one interesting thing that really caught my attention; there's a funny scene where he goes into extreme detail about how he spends his time at work, saying that he usually comes in at least 15 minutes late, always takes the side door to avoid running into his boss Lumbergh, and usually spaces out for an hour or two before lunch followed by spacing out at his desk after lunch too, but it looks like he's working when his boss swings by. He says that he only does around 15 minutes of real, honest work any given week, and when one of the Bobs asks him why, he says, "I'm not lazy, I just don't care. If I bust my ass and the company ships out a few extra units, I don't see another dime. So where's the motivation?" He goes on to say that the has eight different bosses who swing by his desk to lecture him any time he makes the slightest mistake, and that his only motivation is not being hassled, but the flaw with that is that people will only work hard enough not to get fired.

Probably one of the best examples about the vacuous, all-consuming parasitic nature of massive corporate jobs is the entire character Milton. At one point they discover a glitch where it turned out he was getting paychecks even though he was supposed to have been laid off ages ago, so they "fixed the glitch" (meaning he stops getting paid) but didn't tell him he was laid off, so he keep coming to work and doing things for them without pay for a while.

Obviously this is an exaggeration for comedic effect, but I think it captures the sentiment pretty well.

I think Squidward said it pretty well.

When faced with the unwavering wall of apathy that is the general workforce, it's easy to become jaded and cynical, although the Urban Dictionary™ has something interesting to say about it.

It states that jadism and zeal aren't incompatible, but that, in fact, the two compliment each other wonderfully.

You see, left to their own devices, jadism and ideological zealism would destroy themselves. There are other things besides jadism that can balance out zeal, as discussed thoroughly in my Solipsism post, but there isn't really anything else that can keep jadism at bay other than zealism. Zealism is inherently an optimistic trait, in that the strong, continuous pursuit of an ideal requires at least some faith in it as a possibility, whereas a purely jaded person would think it all hopeless before they even began.

That is why we should strive to be jaded zealots, as the two work in tandem in ways that few contradictory ideas can. The trick is not to be so zealous that you're crushed by your own failed ambitions, but not so jaded that you don't even try.

The sweet spot is when you're just jaded enough to be funny. Any more than that and you reach Doomer territory.

The Urban Dictionary defines a Doomer as:

A more enlightened update of the incel. Where the incel is chronically alone, and projects his hatred onto women, the doomer has accepted his equally alone fate without resentment. Instead of bitching he listens to Radiohead on evening walks.

Usually in his 20s, the doomer is typically unemployed or doing a dead-end job, tormented by unrequited love, and alienated from most of the population; and this sense of personal aimlessness and despair seeps into his views on the world in general. So he lives in constant despair for humanity's future, with the prospect of ecological catastrophes and economic downturns tormenting his mind. To dull his sense of Weltschmerz he smokes, or drinks, takes drugs. But nothing can quite take away the dread that the doomer constantly feels towards the future. Hence his name.

He is the inheritor of a long tradition of being jaded with the world, and adopting this as a consistent worldview: he looks and nods at those that deny life: Hegesias of Cyrene, the Buddhists, Schopenhauer. But as a product of the modern world, he couldn't pretend that there is any ultimate spiritual redemption at the end. So he can only deny, deny, deny.
After she left him forever, he sat down, despondent and empty. But he mustered up the energy to put on his 90s playlist; and when the guitars from My Bloody Valentine's Loveless screeched their first note, he knew he was now a doomer.

This is how you look after taking a black pill.

I'd say the Doomer is the modern-world equivalent of going Hollow, a concept in Dark Souls where one loses life purpose and becomes a wandering shell of flesh.

That being said, the avoidance of going Hollow, or being black-pilled, or a Doomer, or whatever you'd like to call it, doesn't necessarily mean you want to go around serving up smiles.

It's more of a cautionary tale or constant lingering reminder that this is what awaits those who aren't careful enough to keep their optimism stored away in a safebox. as the alternative is either becoming a Doomer or... serving up smiles. The majority of us would probably rather avoid both of those outcomes.

At any rate this post seemed a little bit rambly, although I have some interesting tidings. So one things that's happening with Desolation's Reach is that it's going to contain a few semi-self-contained short-stories. What I mean by "semi-self-contained" is short stories that initially seem completely unreleated to the main plot, and almost seem to take place in a different universe altogether, but then turn out to have a tangible connection to the events of the main story after all.

This won't be making the story much longer, however, because I found a few sections that I can safely cut out that I probably won't miss much, so overall the story's length will be about the same after the short stories have been implemented.

Anyway time I wrapped this thing up,

and as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Friday, January 17, 2020


I have conflicting feelings on writing after a long period of inactivity.

I'd say that for the most part, the writing itself suffers but sometimes a long break is good for editing. What I mean to say is that if you try to write after a long period of vegging, you might suddenly feel ineffectual and it's as if you've forgotten what the hell a keyboard is and how to type. Not literally, but more than once I've come back to my blog or manuscript after not touching it for a week or longer and just kinda stared at the screen for 20 minutes like

In some sense it's easy to say that writing is a akin to riding a bike, and that once mastered you never forget, but there's a big caveat to this. I'd say it's more like exercising and if you stop for a while, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick up where you last left off. Of course, after a week or two of adjustment you might be back at writing with the same quality you were able to before, but the longer you procrastinate writing the longer it takes to readjust. But there are some cases where deliberately taking a break from writing is beneficial; although I'd say the key to this is not taking a break from all writing, rather just from writing one specific project.

Meaning that you might stop working on one thing for a few days or so, but you still continue to write other things, that way you're still keeping your writing skills sharp but not overdosing on one specific project. This sense of "writing overdose" occurs when you work on one project for so long that you struggle to write anything else. I've experienced both edges of this blade; there have been instances where I've dived deep into my manuscript rabbit-hole and by the time I came out the other end, I've become so entrenched in my story that I didn't know how to write anything else, but right now it's the exact opposite, where I've been mostly just writing articles for Exclusively Games (I've written several articles for them, which will show up on their website in a few weeks, starting with one juicy one about Amazon and followed by an op-ed about Dark Souls) and the occasional blog post. But now when I try to work on my manuscript everything goes to shit, because I've spent too much time writing other things and not enough time working on my story, so now I find it difficult to write for more than 20 minutes without feeling some form of mental fatigue setting in.

Obviously I'm not abandoning the story or anything, just wrestling with the Dark Lord, Procrastination, my primordial mortal enemy. But I don't feel like fighting him today, maybe tomorrow. We'll let Future Dylan worry about that.

Anyway it's reached a point where I spend 20 minutes reading and re-reading a single paragraph from my manuscript only to add or remove one single line, and then I just sit there smug and content like

"Whelp, I'm done for the day."

So that's what you have to be careful about. Although deliberately taking a break when editing can be a Godsend. When you spend too much time reading and re-reading something you wrote, you build a sort of tolerance to it and stop seeing it through the objective lens needed to spot mistakes and continuation errors. But I often find when returning to something I wrote a long time ago that I largely forgot about what I wrote and how I wrote it, so reading it again after a long time of not touching it allows me to see it through fresh eyes, as if I'm seeing it for the first time, and it's much easier to spot mistakes and faux pas than when I'm actively working on editing and revising something for a long period of time.

It's also helpful to have another pair of eyes looking over your project for that sort of stuff while you write something else, that way you can still be making progress on editing / revising one project while writing another. For example, I think it's a good idea to start writing one book while nearing the final stages of editing another. If you're on your third or fourth draft of your story, passing it on to your beta readers and editors again while you start writing a new IP is a great way to stay fresh in the creativity zone while not letting mental fatigue set in.

Personally, I've gone an odd route and written both book one and book two of Desolation's Reach in a row, so after book one is published I'll probably write my next manuscript The Pen Pal while editing book two of Desolation's Reach, I think editing your past project while writing the new one is a good way to keep both writing and editing skills sharp. When I first started editing book one ages ago I had no idea where to start since it was my first time editing anything for who knows how long (although I find that the first page is usually a good place to start).

Not sure how to send off this post so I think I'll just cut it here.

As always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Humor, Tragedy and the Dynamic Story (Part Six)

After being lambasted for several minutes, Sir Doran fell quiet, and after a long silence, he looked up and said:

"My reality may not be reality, but in reality my reality is far better than yours, so I think I will continue to be Sir Doran the Trammeled, and you can continue to be Crow 'The Complacent' Bradshaw."

-Desolation's Reach, Book Two

Part Six: A Defense of Solipsism

In order to understand what purpose solipsism has in fiction as well as how it can serve us in the real world, we must first understand what solipsism is.

At its core, solipsism is almost exclusively a harmful and unwelcoming philosophy, or to be more frank, a clinical mental illness.

A solipsist is someone who genuinely, actually believes that they are literally the only real person in the world. This idea stems from the fact that, technically, we can't prove them wrong. In Vsauce's video on the subject, Michael brought up something called "Last Thursday-ism," which is the (mostly fictional) belief that the entire universe and all of planet Earth spontaneously came into existence last Thursday. And the thing that makes this theory annoying is that any arguments against it could be twisted to push its narrative.

One might say, "Well, what about history? What about history books, archeological discoveries, and memories of the past?" and each of these things could be used to argue that last-Thursday-ism is real.

Your memories of the past? All of them instantaneously came into your mind last Thursday.

History books? Also just spontaneously came into existence.

Old people who can tell you about what it was like in WWII? Their memories are all implanted in their heads as well, and they were already old when they popped into existence last Thursday.

However, in essence, nothing can truly be proven to be true or correct. I mean, it can, but not in a way that all would recognize as fact. This comes into play when we look at postulated arguments.


A man tells his friend that he's dead.

Friend: "You're not dead."

Man: "Yes I am."

Friend: "But you're breathing."

Man: "No I'm not. Dead people don't breathe."

The friend grabs a small mirror and places it under his nose to collect moisture.

Friend: *Gestures to mirror* "You were saying?"

Man: "Oh, looks like I was wrong."

Friend: "So you admit you're not dead?"

Man: "No, dead people do breathe."

The problem with "proving" anything is that it relies on the assumption that all other information is true. If you've ever done a sizable math equation only to get the wrong answer after comfortably believing that you've been doing it correct the entire time, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're doing a large math problem, and you make one mistake in the beginning, it doesn't matter if you followed the rest of the steps correctly. Drawing the correct conclusion depends on all previous things being true.

This is no different when it comes to the exchange of information. In order to guarantee that something is correct and true, you must first prove that everything the information is based off of is also correct and true, and attempting to do this would be fruitless as it would devolve into a never-ending cycle.

So what does solipsism have to do with this?

Well, the thing is you can't reason with a solipsist. A solipsist believes that they are the only "real" person, and that everyone else is just a figment of their imagination.

We saw this with several court cases where the accused was determined "not guilty" by means of insanity after they claimed that they live in a simulation and don't have any consequences for their actions. This has since been dubbed The Matrix Defense.

Ansley shot her landlady and was frustrated when no one believed she was living in a simulation.

This is where the phaneron comes into play. Phaneron is the "reality filter," if you will. All information obtained about the world outside your brain is filtered by your senses--what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and feel. There are actually more than five senses (such as balance) but there is a limit to what can be observed by the fallible human body. Unfortunately for the human mind, there's really no way to be sure that anything you "see" or experience is actually what it seems.

And in many cases it often isn't.

Humans are so flawed that our own hubris gets in the way of our self-awareness. The average Joe tends to lean more towards their own experience than rationale or logic alone. We tend to rely more on our own anecdotal evidence than seek out alternate methods of observation.

For example, let's say a man works at an office where he sees one particular coworker for one minute every morning. Unbeknownst to the man, his coworker is actually a serial killer. However every time he runs into his coworker, he is nothing but pleasant, kind, and an all-around great guy.

Despite only interacting with this coworker for one minute a day, he would likely assume that his coworker was a great person.

And we do this all. The. Time.

If we happen to know a lot of redheads, and they all turn out to be mean, we might come to the conclusion that redheads are predisposed to being mean.

If we have a bad experience on our first trip to a new restaurant, we might never go there again, even if in reality they almost always have amazing food and service; all because we happened to be on the receiving end of the one exception.

This concept plays a vital role in social activity; it's well-known that a bad first impression is often irreversible.

And yet given the many faults of the human's phaneron and ability to reason with them, we don't have any other alternative. When the average Joe jumps to these often illogical conclusions rather than seeking proof first, he or she is only doing what makes the most sense. After all, given how impossible it is to really prove anything, can you blame them?

When it comes to phaneron, we have no choice but to trust them, because there is no other alternative. We don't have any way to actually know that what our eyes report to our brain are reliable, that what our noses and ears are true; however we do have a priori reasoning. A priori reasoning is when something can be known to be true without evidence, proof, or experience of any kind. Take the phrase, "All bachelors are unmarried." We don't need proof to know this sentence is correct; because a bachelor is literally defined as an unmarried person.

We don't have to interview every bachelor in the world and ask if they're married or not, because the sentence supports itself by its very definition.

So with a priori knowledge, we can deduce that the things outside of us are real in a variety of ways.

One method is using what's called occam's razor, which is a philosophical principal that states that in the pursuit of knowledge, we should always make as few assumptions as possible. If I can touch, taste, smell and feel an object, it takes more faith to believe each of those senses is systematically mistaken than to believe I can see and sense the object because it's actually there in front of me.

The same goes for humanity at large, which has so many moving parts that to assume it's all coincidentally false requires far more assumptions than believing your phaneron can communicate the existence of people outside your body because they are, in fact, there.

No, when I encourage people to have solipsistic qualities and write somewhat solipsistic characters, this is not what I'm talking about. Whereas solipsism itself is the delusional denial of the existence of other people, the solipsism I refer to is of the literary variety.

What I consider to be "literary solipsism," which is some jargon I just made up on the spot, is an amalgamation of the hero complex, the hero's dogma, the hero's journey, and unbridled confidence.

Now, I just threw a seemingly random assortment of words and phrases at you, but what do they actually mean?

Breaking them down, the hero complex and hero dogma are intrinsically negative on their own. By themselves, the hero complex and dogma are self-destructive and conceited. It's only when united with other, more redeeming qualities that either of these can be of any positive use.

The hero complex is a sort of narcissism. Fueled by an egocentric worldview, it refers to someone who is so dismissive of others that they develop a subconscious worldview in which they are the only person who matters because they're the only one that's "real" as far as their empathy is concerned. While they don't literally treat everyone like they actually don't exist, they're dismissive of them in such a way that they only seem to think they are the "real" one, in the sense that they are the main character of life so to speak and the world revolves around them.

The hero's journey is a method of laying out character development; it demonstrates the framework that almost all protagonists will follow over the course of a story, but it could also be used for someone to put themselves into a matter of greater perspective, i.e. a more in-depth understanding of where they are in their hero's journey, and how it affects others and can expand into developing empathy.

It's important that the hero complex be acquainted with the hero's journey, because in order to embark on a hero's journey, one must first believe they are capable of being the hero, and the humility accompanied by the hero's journey can keep the egotism of the hero complex in check.

But this raises the question, what about the hero's dogma? A dogma by definition is a set of rules regarding the finality of things, reality included, set in place and insisted upon by a single individual or group as being undeniably true.

Just like how the real-life solipsist is absolutely cock-sure that reality is an illusion, various characters in literature and--more amusingly--real life can set down their own rules for what is and isn't true.

To some extent every human being already does this; we decide for ourselves what food tastes best, what shoes are the most stylish or comfortable, etc. Be we also start to impede on other peoples' dogmas a bit--when people have a stark contrast of opinions and both insist that theirs is the only correct one, that's called being dogmatic. If Joe says that Reeses are the best chocolate retail candy and that anyone who disagrees is a leper, and Susan insists that Kit-Kats are the superior candy and anyone disagrees is a smelly uninformed Neanderthal, they've passed the line between "personal opinion" and bonafide dogma.

So when one makes entire sweeping declarations about the meaning of life and existence, and the resulting moral compass derived from whatever solitary ideology they profess, they've essentially encapsulated the hero complex, hero's dogma and hero's journey in one fell swoop.

But why is that a good thing? How on Earth could this mindset benefit anyone?

Do you see where I'm going with this? If your Spider Senses™ started tingling and alerted you that I was about to go on a long tangent about Don Quixote, then you sir are correct.

I think Frank Sinatra said it best in his best song, My Way. And if you dispute me when I say that My way is the best Frank Sinatra song, I'd project my dogma onto you and insist that it totally is and your opinion is wrong. You may challenge me a to duel to make an appeal.

The whole song could be generously summarized by the first and last verse, the first being,

My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

and the second being,

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

The meaning that one could derive from this literary solipsism is to do things,

as they say,

your way.

This doesn't mean there's a lack of empathy, but a lack of fucks to give regarding dogmas that aren't yours.

You might have heard the phrase, "To each their own," but this phrase is incomplete, as the whole thing should actually read, "To each their own dogma."

One might want to be wary of the most dangerous pitfall regarding literary solipsism; and that's psychopathy. You see, psychopathy and solipsism have a lot of common ground. Both involve some sort of perceived reality, a lack of empathy for others, an egocentric world-view, a dismissive attitude of others, etc.

As I said before, literary solipsism doesn't actually equate to a lack of empathy, but at a surface-level glance it can easily seem that way.

I've always been morbidly fond of scary stories involving imaginary friends. It toys with the idea that what one person actually sees is not what others might, and this is a concept that I think has gravity in the real world. While I would like to think that everyone perceives things outside their phaneron the same way I do, that simply isn't true. What's green to me could be red to someone else--or to a blind person, just black (although recent reseaerch suggest that they literally see nothing, because there are some cases of blindness where the eyes report no information to the brain, so instead of seeing darkness all the time, they literally percieve nothing. It's hard to imagine but it's really interesting stuff).

While it's easy to assume that if someone claims to experience something drastically different from us that they must be crazy or insane, and sometimes that is the case, there are other instances where this might not be true.

I'm not saying to believe in ghosts or anything like that, I don't particularly believe in them, but I do believe that our own dogmas can vary so much to the point where different people can quite literally live in their own world. They may occupy the same space as us, but that doesn't mean they're seeing the same things we are. And does one person's reality trump another's? Who can say that their perceived reality is the correct one? Maybe the other person is actually right and you're the crazy one.

Yeah mom, her name's Phillipa, what of it?

But as we discussed, it's a necessity that each person has total and complete faith in their own dogma. When you start to doubt your own reality and believe in someone else's is when you start to lose a sense of identity, and it's also a symptom of gas-lighting, not to mention falling prey to victimizing tendencies such as Stockholm Syndrome. Because humans have the tendency to trust in the familiar and repetitive exposure, Stockholm Syndrome occurs when a victim has been repeatedly convinced that their captor is actually their guardian or protector, and that the outside world is dangerous and the possession of the captor is their own safe and familiar option. Like a type of gas-lighting, it means one person is projecting their dogma onto another--but it's not even that.

If the captor actually did convince themselves that they are the victim's guardian and protector, then perhaps that could be argued, but I'd be willing to bet that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the captors repeatedly force this crap onto their victims in the hopes that eventually, through attrition alone, the victim will eventually come to believe it. It can't be personal dogma if the person peddling it doesn't actually believe it themselves.

That's one of the reasons Scientology is bullshit--the cult leaders themselves don't believe in it, but are experienced enough to convince a small minority of people that they not only believe whole-heartedly that giving your bank account information and social security card to the "Church" of Scientology is a good idea, but that they even recommend it.

Yet, I still haven't fully touched on why literary solipsism should be used, and that's where reality comes in.

You know what solipsism is, but what about its opposite? What would the opposite of solipsism look like?

It just so happens, there's already a handy word for it. That word is sonder. Sonder is the sudden realization that every pair of headlights you see whizzing by on the freeway, every random pedestrian in the background, every crying baby on an airplane, every saint and sinner in the history of existence, has or has had a life as interesting, unique, and emotionally stimulating as your own, and this idea of sonder can be dangerous in that it's essentially a catastrophic supernova of empathy. While empathy cannot be inherently bad, the human mind has strict limitations on what it's capable of, and sonder is not one of them.

With more than seven-billion people on the planet, the human mind simply does not have enough space or processing power to register the incredibly complex thoughts, emotions, and passions of every single human being in existence. We can't afford to.

It's the difference between seeing a death on the news and losing a loved one. If we experienced incredible devastation every time the news reported the death of a stranger, we would be in a constant state of depressed misery. We can't afford to spend that much mental energy; to have complete and total empathy for every random passerby would be a futile and impossible task.

There are lots of good things too, sure, but because of negativity bias, we would always be in a constant state of misery. Think about how many bad things happen that don't affect us personally.

Every day, 150,000 people die. Most of the time we don't know any of these people, but what is just a statistic to us is a terrifying reality to someone else. At this very moment, someone just lost their mother. Another just lost their spouse. Statistically speaking, someone probably lost two different friends and relatives today.

To not be bothered by this statistic is not cold or heartless, rather it's the opposite; and for evidence of this, look no further than this painting.

If I asked you what this painting was about, what would be your answer? Perhaps the ship sailing off in the distance, or the the one that's just about to depart. Perhaps the painting is about the mule-driver plowing the field, or the shepherd looking at the sky just next to him. Maybe it's about that fisherman by the water.

But in reality, it's about Icarus.

Does that surprise you?

In the story of Icarus, he fixes wings to his back with wax, and when he's warned not to fly too close to the Sun, that's exactly what happens, and the wax melts, sending him crashing back down to Earth and drowning, and if you look closely in the bottom-right hand corner of the canvas, you will see that Icarus has just plunged into the water and is being crushed beneath the waves.

Yet, this painting doesn't seem overtly sad. In fact all seems all and well. This painting cleverly expresses the old Spanish proverb, "No plow stops for the dying man." And perhaps it's for the best that this is the case.

After seeing that this painting was actually a bleak look at how apathetic the world is to our problems, and that it's about a man drowning and everyone around him carrying on as if nothing happened, one might think this painting is a cynical look into how apathetic people are, yet it's actually for the best that the plow doesn't stop for the dying man so to speak.

If the world stopped every time someone died or experienced some tragedy, nothing would ever happen. Factories don't stop production if one of the thousands of employees working there gets hurt (unless there's a major lawsuit or something), Amazon doesn't stop all business when an employee passes away, McDonald's doesn't stop making burgers when a manager at one of the branches passes away.

The world lives on. In many ways it's actually a comforting message--a reminder that for every tragic accident, for every drowning man being swallowed by the sea, there's a hundred people around them who aren't experiencing any such tragedy. For every drowning Icarus there's a hundred people just going through the motions, business as usual.

Icarus may be drowning, but the fisherman is too busy fishing, the farmer is too busy driving the mule and the mule is too busy pulling the plow, the ships are too busy sailing, the shepherd is too busy gazing at the clouds and wondering about the weather. The birds are too busy flying, the sun is too busy shining, and the clouds are too busy drifting above. Life goes on and the world keeps turning.

It reminds us that we are and have to be selfish in order to exist. The world can't stop every time something happens to someone.

And when it comes to the definition of reality itself, and the hardships of living in it, there really is no other recourse than to decide for ourselves what the world is, what rules it has the we have to obey, and we justify it so that we can sleep at night.

One thing that's totally delusional but I tell myself anyway is that I'm not allowed to stop writing because I'm going to be famous someday. Am I actually? Probably not, but I tell myself that as an excuse to keep writing. When I started writing ASH and I was confronted by that big blank page, I had to put something there, and thought to myself, "I doubt anyone will ever read this, but it might be fun to write," and so I wrote that first page. Then I wrote the second, and the third, and so on and so forth until eventually a freaking book came out of nowhere. And of course that wasn't the end of it.

After the pages materialized, it became, "I doubt anyone will ever read this, but I should edit it anyway. Maybe I'll like the final product."

With regards to Desolation's Reach, which has over 260,000 words in its first draft, only one other person has actually read it (thank you, Chris Salch), yet whenever that dubious doubting voice creeps in and says, "I can't believe you wasted years of your life writing 700 pages of crap that no one will ever read," my dogma has to assert itself and insist that thousands of people are going to read it and that's why I have to finish.

I suppose this concept aligns with "fake it 'til you make it" mentality, but considering that everyone is an imposter (a phrase that I often like to say which means "everyone has imposter syndrome"), the only way to really get anything done is to justify the effort with your own dogma. So while insipid realists and pessimists alike might say that reality doesn't care for delusions and what happens happens regardless of what we tell ourselves, it's through our dogma that we're able to justify extraordinary effort. If some college kid with a knack for guitar drops out of college to start a band, he's called crazy by his family and friends, yet when we read about the stories of famous bands who did exactly this suddenly they're a hero.

It's a bold hypocrisy, and one that literary solipsism seeks to undermine at every opportunity. Literary solipsism takes a long, hard look at realists who proclaim that only independent reality is practical, and pessimists who assume the worst outcome, and it spits on them and says, "Fuck you, my reality is better than yours. I don't have to live by your rules."

It's the ultimate act of justifiable defiance--there's defiance just for the sake of defiance (looking at you rebellious teens) and then there's literary solipsism, defiance in the name of insanity. Yet it's an insanity that's practical--in Don Quixote, you can make all the arguments in the world that he wasn't a real knight, yet if he actually ended up saving people, does it matter? And when Sancho Panza spouts nonsense and blasphemies at every corner, and actually believes that Don Quixote is a famous knight who will give him a governorship or an island, we scoff and call him a loon; so what do we do then when his blind and delusional faith is rewarded and he actually does become a governor of a Spanish province thanks to Don Quixote's actions?

One could argue that how we allocate our values and delusions is what determines if our dogma is practical or not, and the stronger a dogma is, the more practical it can be. I guess all I'm saying is that someone who believes they're a fish and sleeps in a pond at night is better equipped to become a skilled swimmer than Jeff from accounting.

So if you sit there at your computer or laptop for hours agonizing about your writing because you're roleplaying as a troubled author, or if you sit there thinking about pastel paints for more minutes than you're proud of because you've convinced yourself that you're the reincarnation of Lucian Freud, or if you lift weights every morning and train rigorously in martial arts because you just know that your destiny is to revolutionize the teachings of Bruce Lee, or if you've dedicated yourself to the study of history, art, combat, strategy and martial arts, because you were born as the famous and peerless knight Don Quixote de la Mancha, you might be called a loon by the rest of the world, but you just might be on to something.

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Lost progress

So I just spent more than six hours busting my ass on a new blog post, and even though I repeatedly saved and constantly autosaved--something I do with both writing, essays for classwork, and video games, because I hate losing progress, for whatever reason I lost all my progress anyway. Blogger decided, "F*ck you and your 26 autosaves, I'm going to ignore all of them." So I just tried to load in the blog post I was working on and almost all the progress is missing for some reason.

I'm pretty annoyed so I'm just going to put it down for the day and come back when I'm not furious with the failings of technology.