Virtual Intoxication

The book (soon-to-be movie) Ready Player One describes a world where things have gotten so bad that almost everyone retreats to this fully immersive virtual world called The Oasis.

It was a great read. It might also be a scary look at our future as a species.

If we are talking about ways to avoid dealing with reality as it is, there are few things more effective than video games. Before I start to sound like a tyrant though, I’ll admit that I play them. I really enjoy video games. I have since I was a kid. I still do.  I can definitely see how they took over for other forms of intoxication at times, and have probably taken up more of my time in the final calculation.

The dangerous thing about video games is how they trick us into thinking we are accomplishing something.

We level up or get a new weapon or open up a new area, and those reward centers in our brain tingle with our achievement. We kill a bunch of ninjas or headshot a bunch of bandits and build a house up on a hill and accumulate a huge number of guns, but when we turn the system off nothing in the real world has changed.

The house is still a mess. We still hate our boss at our minimum wage job. Our partner has still left us. Our grades are still bad. The lawn is still not mowed. Maybe we are still just a jerk and people don’t like us. We have played a game all day and accomplished a lot of things, but none of them are real. For a while, things felt better. The noise in our head was quiet, but nothing has actually changed.

I guess we better turn the game back on, right?

Or, we could leave it off and actually do something about the things that are causing us pain.

Everything we have talked about for the past few days is not good or bad in and of itself, but they all become harmful when they get out of hand.

Video games are no different. In all honesty, they probably destroy motivation more than anything else I see, especially in young men. I do believe they are addictive. Combine them with pot and you and you have a recipe for never leaving the house.

At least we have our online trophies though.

Ideological Intoxication

I am going to drop (or at least cut down on using) the word intoxication because I am tired of it.

We are talking about the things that separate us from reality. Let’s just leave it at that.

Ideas and ideologies and “truths” are one of the easiest ways to be separate from reality. They teach us to deal with what is through the lens of beliefs and theories about it, rather than the thing itself.

This really got ahold of me when I started growing as a person. I got really caught up in ideas and beliefs and I thought I had the right ones. It was an odd thing. I stopped really thinking about the world in any way apart from these ideas and beliefs. They dictated my beliefs about things before I even encountered them.

I was vocal with these ideas and ideologies. I tried to share them with others, to convince them I was right. I got personally attached to them, despite having no hand in their creation or any verification of their accuracy.

Why this is problematic or intoxicating is difficult to pin down. It seems annoying at worst, which may be true, but I don’t think so.

Ideas and beliefs matter.

Even if they are “true” they separate us from reality to some degree because thinking about something is not the same as experiencing it. You can know everything about weather systems and how they work but it’s not the same as standing in a storm.

Untrue or half-true beliefs are even worse. They separate us from reality by a layer of deep distortion. This can lead us to judge others before we meet them, to assess situations before we know all the facts and make decisions based on pre-constructed sets of responses instead of the actual situation at hand.

Ideas and ideologies changed how I saw the world and then continually validated that change through self-reinforcing interpretations of events.

Reality had to pass through the lens of these beliefs before it could reach me. All lenses distort in some way. The only thing I want these days is to shave my lenses down as thin as possible, but the mind really likes ideologies and ideas to process things through. Even the idea of being intoxication-free is an ideology in and of itself, and is, therefore, in some way, distorting.

It never ends.

Thanks for reading.

Intoxicated with Progress

Motion seems to be one of the most intoxicating things for us as people.

We like the idea of advancing, of creating, of doing something. Of being smart and knowing things and having answers.

When I quit using chemical intoxications, I didn’t have a lot going on. I was pretty much lost in the world. I got into school because that’s just what you do next, and something clicked. I started doing really well, making good grades and writing papers that people liked. I got positive feedback and started to feel like I was going somewhere.

This is as intoxicating as anything else and is not a good unto itself.

I was still avoiding the noise in my head, still looking for ways to dull myself to all of it, and I’d found it. I threw myself into “growing” as a person. I read all the time, I learned all I could about everything. It was all-consuming for a while.

I am not trying to say this is as damaging as intoxicating oneself with chemicals. I don’t know anyone who has died from learning or school or feeling self-satisfied in these things. I am only saying that this became my new way of avoiding dealing things as they were.

I threw myself into self-development and self-improvement and self-understanding. All of these begin with one specific word.

I became a little oblivious to a lot of things during this time and became obsessed with leaving the old me behind. I tried stuffing a whole lot of baggage into different closets and dressers and in the attic and air vents. Rather than dealing with it, I was just going to sprint away and leave it behind.

One of the hidden dangers about this form of intoxication is that not only will there not be anyone cautioning you, everyone will be telling you how good you are doing. Especially if you were a train wreck up until that point. No one will caution you about this path, which is dangerous.

We can get every bit as caught up in growing the self as we can in drowning it in intoxicants, and we are still doing one basic thing: avoiding what is.

It’s less harmful, but it’s still not reality.

Making a Website, Moving Blogs and Movies that Take Us for Granted

We’ll take a break from the whole intoxication thing for the Sunday Pop-Up.

I haven’t enjoyed the blogs as much as I usually do this week. I don’t like talking about old stuff. Most of the blogs seem to be writing themselves though, so maybe there is something there.

I have spent well over 20 hours this week working on a new website. I really hate the Embracing Fate name, so I will be rebranding within the next few months. One of the best parts about writing a daily blog is getting to move every single post over to a new website. It is giving me the opportunity to add pictures to every post and swap out the ones I pulled off Google Images with license-free options though. It’s also letting me re-number in all the places I made mistakes. I went through and did this a while back, only to find I’d missed a mistake on the 6th post. That took a while to sort out.

We took Max to his first movie this week.

We saw Despicable Me 3 at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was completely forgettable. One of those movies that they phoned in because they know people are going to show up no matter what. Christian-themed movies seem to bank on this built-in audience. I always wonder if there are Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu oriented movies that do it in other countries.  Anyway, the villain In Despicable Me was another 80’s era nostalgia trip that seems very popular right now, so I enjoyed that. Max loved the experience and still talks about eating popcorn with the bad boy and the lasers.

I watched Logan with B this last week too. I was really impressed with just how good it was. I ran out of love for Logan/Wolverine in the mid-90’s when he was on every superhero team and had like 9 different titles to his name, but this movie reminded how much there is to love about him. I really enjoyed the little girl in the movie and how feral she was too.

It’s funny how most every movie we see these days seems centered on an apocalyptic or near-apocalyptic future.

It’s like we’ve given up all hope for anything good coming our way. The constant drumbeat of doom from the news media cannot help. Deep down, we all want the world to end, just a little bit. It sounds interesting and fun and would force us into recognizing our existence as being about more than a new car and what the lawn looks like. Maybe it taps into some primal desire to survive instead of just being alive.

Or maybe we are watching it because we want to familiarize what terrifies us.

Who knows.

I’ve had a few people throw out ideas and questions for future posts, I will start on those once we wrap up this intoxication series. I have a big project I am starting today to surprise Barabara with when she gets back from training in Austin. She keeps trying to catch me off guard with questions so that I will tell her, but I’m not 6 so it doesn’t work.

I hope everyone has a great week, thank you for reading.

Intoxication Interlude

We are talking about intoxication as anything that distracts us from what is.

I am getting a little tired of the word.

I am writing about my own experience with it over the years and the things I used and use to avoid dealing with the noise in my own head. That’s it.

I don’t think I take a hard line with any of this. Most everyone I know and work with engages in some kind of intoxication, whether it’s alcohol or weed or something else. I take a hard line with myself because I have learned how easily I become attached to things. I don’t want to die having never lived in reality as much as I am able to as a human.

None of this comes from a place of morals.

I really don’t have an issue with others choosing intoxication, especially when it isn’t bringing any serious consequences their way. I definitely don’t take an issue with it when it isn’t my business. Which is most of the time. I do hate to see anyone limiting their life by not dealing with the root causes of things.  I hate to see anyone medicating symptoms while the disease eats away at their life. I am not always able to do anything about it though.

I have a unique job. People come to me seeking something better for themselves. It is exciting when I someone who really wants to sweep away the layers of delusion and intoxication and take a good hard look at their life. Not everyone is seeking this though. Some people just want to figure out what’s not working and move on, and that’s cool. They want to put a bucket under the leaky pipe rather than spend their time and money and energy to replace everything that has rusted away, and that’s cool.

I get it.

Sometimes, simply not-destructive is a great improvement in one’s quality of life. That’s worth shooting for.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life watching intoxications of one kind or another take people’s time and energy and spirit, and sometimes their lives. I’ve watched intoxications take the most capable and charismatic people I’ve ever met and turn them into incapable, toxic creatures. I’ve watched intoxications take people’s time and money and families and careers. I’ve watched kind people become cruel and gentle people become violent. I have rarely watched intoxications do much good for people.

I am not perfect. I do not think I ever claim to be. As you’ll see in the days to come, there are still ways I intoxicate myself. There are still things I use to avoid reality and to hide my face from difficult things. Sometimes there are things in front of me that I just don’t have the heart to deal with right then. I just try to keep my intoxications as neutral as possible these days. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.