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Selfless is Still Selfish

I was reading this excellent article from Psychology Today called “Why Doing Good is Selfish” and I recommend you read it as well:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201406/why-doing-good-is-selfish

Both my title and the title of the article are going to sound deceivingly negative but bare with us.

I’m going to add to this article because I feel that while the author did an excellent job of saying why it’s actually beneficial for you to do inherently selfless things and also beneficial for others, it did not actually answer a deeper question for me or many others…the fact that it is still selfish.

When you are a very giving, morally-driven person, you want to sacrifice something of yourself, so that others will be happy – to act on what you’re doing not just because it will make you feel good, but because it will make others feel good. The problem with this is, assuming you’re being genuine about your wanting to make others happy, that it also makes you feel good about yourself. This isn’t actually a “problem” per say, but it’s something that I’ve worried about in the past. Doesn’t that undermine the whole idea of being selfless? That you’re doing it because it makes you feel good to sacrifice for others when in fact you actually are getting something back?

I’ve thought about this a lot and I finally realized, that absolutely no one does anything without personal gain of some kind (even if that reaction is an involuntary reflex, which is your body trying to preserve your well-being/life). If we must pick a selfish reason, let that reason at the very least be one that is also helping others. Let yourself have a little of that credit because as the article pointed out, it makes the people who are grateful to you feel good about making you happy too, if not, you are actually being unkind in not allowing them that same happiness.

This doesn’t mean that you should run around bragging about the good things you’ve done for others because then you’re doing it purely for self-glory and also looking for reassurance from others instead of being self-assured that you did the right thing. If you need a reason to respect yourself and give kindness to yourself (and you do, or you’ll have no sense of reason to live), let it at least be a reason that benefits society. Even in the cases where people are doing charity work purely for praise, at least they’re doing it. I’d rather they’re helping people while boosting their own ego than investing their time into doing something that either hurts others or benefits only themselves (which often, you cannot do without actually hurting someone, even those who do not act are not truly neutral, they are simply allowing evil to happen). I would just be careful to make sure it’s only because it makes you feel better about yourself as a human being and not because you want praise or reassurance from others.

This is another reason why I believe no one person can be completely good or bad. It just can’t happen. No act in itself is completely pure of morals or personal gain, but we all must choose, knowing that we can’t be perfect. We are doomed from birth to make selfish mistakes, it is the nature of survival. Yet it seems that even in our selfishness, we often help each other. Let our helping each other be done intentionally instead of by accident or by indirect consequence.

My Relationship with “Feminism”

Some of this is going to be repeated from a previous essay that I wrote. I just wanted to clear up a few things because it may not have been clear what it was I was arguing before. It may also help me personally, put into words for myself, all the thoughts and positions that I have circling inside my head.

Let me start by saying, I’m not speaking for everyone here, be they women, men, inbetween or not at all. There are many people who are going to disagree with the statement that I’m going to make here, but honestly, I think many of us actually have the same goals but are calling them different things or advocating for them differently. However, I am a stickler for specific definitions, because I feel that using a word that is less an correct over a long period of time is harmful not only for the individual for us as a species.

Before you go assuming I’m some uneducated slob who never studied feminism, let me assure you, I took three terms of Critical Gender Studies in college, all of which included feminist issues at length and one of which specifically focused on defining feminism and the history of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd wave feminism. Yes, I got good grades and my professors liked me as I had good attendance and was an avid, eager participant in all discussions.

I don’t think the “feminist movement’ is “wrong.” I don’t think feminists (in general) are my enemy at all. I also don’t agree that (in general) feminists hate men or are angry liberals. I think most feminists are looking for equality of the sexes and to dismantle what is left of the system of patriarchy.

The problem that I have with this, is that I don’t agree that “sex” as in gender specifically, exists. The line that would be drawn between what is a “man” and what is a “woman,” is so blurred, yes even medically/biologically, that I just don’t believe it exists. There is nothing (mentally or physically) that a man or a woman can’t do that they “other” can, and where any limitations seem to exist, they can be easily taken broken down with surgery and hormone replacement. The second problem that I have with “feminism” is that the word has the root, “fem” in it, implying “feminine,” “female,” etc. This is further reinforcing the idea, that this is such a thing as “feminine” to begin with, when in fact, the term is so subjective (and growing more and more so everyday), that I can only conclude what I have already stated: there is no such thing. There is also no such thing as “masculine.” The only thing about the word(s) that’s real, is the idea we insist on constructing and reconstructing in our society. Just more rules to follow.

Yes, I believe feminists understand this and aim for many of our same goals, but the word they’re using, unfortunately, undermines the goal. At least, it does from my perspective. I personally find, that this word which used to mean to me “equality of the sexes” now only reinforces that there are two sexes, differences. There aren’t. Not in my opinion.

There are however, real limitations to the people of which we insist on forcing labels onto, and thanks to thousands of years of oppressive patriarchy, those labeled as “women” still get the shit end of the stick more often than not. I believe the gap of oppression between the societal defined “sexes” has closed considerably, in first world countries, but it is not gone and is definitely prevalent in second and third world countries. I believe the now modern version feminism is correct in saying that we cannot ignore these issues or they will never get better and/or we risk repeating history by not continually teaching, looking back on it, and comparing it to our modern situation.

However, I am not always going to agree with the terminology the causes use nor the strategies. I don’t call myself a “feminist” anymore, not because I don’t respect what the cause has done or even is still doing, but because the word “feminist” is simply not big enough for me anymore. It’s too limiting. The term which used to be all about women’s rights has expanded to really mean “human rights” because how can one even define what a “woman” is? Or a “man”? Yet we still insist on using the word “feminism”/”feminist”, even though it perpetuates the ideas that we disagree with. Patriarchy hurts everyone, not just by assigning us roles, but by trapping us with names and labels which then re-assign us roles.

The word “feminist” is just not enough for me anymore, and I feel the word needs to be replaced for something that looks at the bigger picture, especially once I started addressing issues about what makes someone “gay” or “transgender.” Again, I know that feminists care about those issues too, but I simply do not feel that this word, “feminist” really covers those issues, all those very important beliefs that I hold. It’s just not a specific enough or big enough word. It’s neither small enough, nor big enough to cover the things I really care about. I feel that “women” cannot truly earn their equality until we are no longer an “other,” basically, until we are no longer called “women” but “people.” And again, I understand that this is simply how I, personally feel. It is a debate topic, but I believe that separate is never equal and that better together, (called the same name) is the way to go.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” we were labeled “women” by the system. This word means nothing to me anymore, just as the system of Patriarchy itself also means nothing to me. It is a system of lies that unfortunately, I am forced to live in and, to a certain degree, follow along with until we as humans can find a better solution.

Yes, I respect “modern feminists” and “modern feminism,” no I do not call myself one. And if feminists truly do respect a “woman’s” right to chose, they will not speak for me nor call me something I don’t call myself. And I certainly do not appreciate the constant suggestion that the reasons I have for that would be because I am not educated on feminist issues. Yes, I understand, we’re fight for the same things (or at least many but not all of them), no your word is not the perfect description for my personal beliefs. I respect and am happy to work with feminists toward bigger causes. I respect you, now I’m asking that you respect me.

Being Better Just for You

I don’t understand why people waste all this time creating new sayings about how you’re going to find a “better” significant other than the last, or become more deserving of a significant other. Honestly, I think all that is bullshit, either someone is a good match for you, or they’re not. The only part you really need to change is whether or not you’re being honest with yourself and with your partner about it, being realistic about expectations.

The truth is that you should always be trying to improve your mental and physical health, but that has nothing to do with your significant other. You should be doing it for you. When we say things like “If you want a better partner, be a better partner”, “A better you will attract a better next”, or “You shouldn’t be doing the chasing, people should be chasing you.” None of these actually make any sense. Think about it. If we taught this to everyone, everyone would be a stuck-up snob and no one would ever make themselves vulnerable enough to have a successful relationship. The truth of the matter is NO ONE SHOULD BE CHASING. If it’s a good match, if you both make each other feel good in a healthy way, both people should WANT to be around each other. It’s shouldn’t be a competition.

Is it work? Oh yes, don’t mistake what I’m saying to mean that it will be easy. Sacrifices should be made on both sides, but that is not the same as “chasing.” If you’re feeling like you’re making all the sacrifices OR all the advances because the other people would not do the same for you, this is a problem. Now here is the very important part about this – if they are not willing to make those same efforts, that does not necessarily mean it’s because there is something “wrong” with you, that does not mean there is something “undesirable” about you. It means that this person you’re with may not be a good match for you.

When we insist on saying things about being a more attractive human being to reel in partners, you’re doing it wrong. Your worth as a human being, is not about how “attractive” you are. If you enjoy feeling attractive, that’s ok, but there is so much more to life than just being lusted after. There’s your job, enjoying food, enjoying fitness, enjoying sports, dancing, roller coasters, scary movies, funny movies, beautiful music, exciting music, kittens, puppies, bunnies and snakes, going for hikes, enjoying the view, helping other people to feel good, learning a new instrument, learning about people, learning science, spending time with family, playing video games, playing board games, making new friends, hanging out with old friends, reading a good book that makes you laugh or cry, visiting new places.

Why focus on just what you are as a lover when you’re also a mother/father/daughter/son, artist, dancer, hard-working career person, daring adventurer, scholar, loving pet owner, marathon runner, philanthropist? When you’re on your deathbed and maybe or maybe not your lover is at your side, are you going to remember or determine your worth as a human being based solely on what your romantic relationship was like? There’s nothing wrong with being a devoted partner and solid family member, but is that really all there is? Is that really that’s all you’re going to remember as you’re slipping away? Many, many people having loving relationships, but not everyone has run a marathon, or published a book, or raised a million dollars for orphans in a third world country. It’s not about bragging rights, it’s about the variety of experiences available to you. If all your thoughts are wrapped around just wanting the experience of feeling loved, there are many ways and places to find that beyond a romantic partner and remember that while love may be the greatest feeling in the world, it is not the only feeling. It’s not even the only GOOD feeling. What about the feelings that come from all the other activities I mentioned?

Romantic relationships should not be what your life is about. Whether or not you’re a man or a woman or anything inbetween, you should have a passion for something and then find a partner that helps you to do what it is you love. A person that brings out the things in you that you love and enables you to do the things you love. And you should be able to return that favor. If you’re trying to “better yourself for someone else,” you’re probably doing it wrong. Find what you love, and throw yourself into it. Then if luck should have it, the right person and you will run into each other. No chasing, no games. Just two people who both happen to love what they see in their partner and want to support it. Even if you never find that perfect match, you can take comfort in knowing that you did something with your life, that you experienced it.

It’s not about being “better for someone else” because you’re single. It’s about constantly improving and experiencing for YOURSELF. Because it’s your life, you deserve to live it.

Reading in a Relationship

This article, “Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With,” is about why people who read should be treasured and the benefits that reading provides to the reader, but it actually made me start thinking about my relationship to others that involved books, instead of strictly my life as it has been affected by books.

http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/date-reader-readers-best-people-fall-love-scientifically-proven/662017/

I would say that reading out loud with someone is one of the most intimate things I’ve ever done, both with romantic and non-romantic partners. Both my parents read to me while I was growing up, my father especially and that’s very important because as I got older and we started seeing less eye-to-eye, I had these treasured memories with him that kept reminding me of why I loved him. We still share some very core values thanks to the novels that we read together and books are still something we can talk about and appreciate as we have similar tastes.

I do think the article is biased in the way that it’s defining “intelligence” however, I don’t think I can date someone that I can’t talk to about books. With my ex, reading out loud together was actually something we started doing toward the end of our relationship and I wish it was something we done been doing from day 1. Not because it would have saved our relationship (break-up was inevitable), but just because it was such a priceless, intense, and very deep thing to share. It’s beyond something physical, it’s like sharing a secret, hidden part of the world with them. Seeing it through the same words at the same time with them. An author can never totally control how their reader will take in the information they’ve written down despite the power they hold in how it is presented. A reader has only the information that the author gives them, and only in the words they so chose. Many synonyms can have very nearly the same meaning but because of different connotations or the reader’s history with the words or subject matter, it can strike them differently. My ex for example, was very much a sensor, an in-the-moment, I’ll think about hard questions later, maybe the philosophical answer will just fall into my lap, maybe the answer is irrelevant to life all together, kind of person. An ISTP (MBTI, if that means anything to you). Extremely organized to immediate needs, rational, but don’t ask me how I or you feel kind of person. I’m totally different. I am a feeler and a philosopher, but when we read together, we left much of our brains and biased behind us to become the author, the characters, just observers as the books commanded us to. We passed the book(s) back and forth reading aloud until our voices were hoarse, our lips dry, and our eyes too tired from reading into the early hours of the morning to read anymore. We cuddled together while Bilbo spun riddles during the Hobbit, held hands tightly, hearts racing for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and cried, foreheads pressed together for lost children in the Hunger Games. Our previous life experiences and different ways of thinking meant that we sometimes saw the issues differently, which actually led to some deep philosophical discussions (very much drawing out a side of her I loved). Yet the core parts of the book – all the pain and suffering and triumphs and morals of the characters were things we always shared. They brought us together knowing that when it really came down to it, we believed in the same things. Out of all the experiences (that were not physical) I shared with this person that I loved, the times we spent reading together are the memories that I most treasure.

I don’t care that it sounds childish, there is nothing sexier than getting sucked into a book while sharing its secret world with someone whose opinion I respect and admire.

If you are a person I deeply love, it is most likely that what you share in common with the other people I love is our having read aloud together. My Father, Mother, Grandmother, Aunt, Sister, Ex-Girlfriend, all were people who read with me. If I do decide to have children, there is only one thing that am absolutely sure is the right thing to do in parenting them – I will read aloud with them, every night if possible.

If you’re going to be a permanent part of my most intimate life, you’d better be a reader.

Millennials are not “Disloyal”

http://mashable.com/2014/07/09/millennials-work-promotion/#:eyJzIjoiZiIsImkiOiJfaDEyNnI1dTQyN3pheXJzdCJ9

I’d like to address some of the stats in this article, focusing mainly on the words they used to define us and how the situations are more complicated than the author made it sound.

“First, job-hopping millennials proved disloyal to employers, and now apparently they’re also disloyal to each other”

I think millennials simply think of friends and work and especially “loyalty” differently than our parents did. I also think that I define the words and situations in this article differently than this author does. Why would getting a promotion mean that a friend would make me choose between them and the job? Are they really my “friends?” Depends on the situation I suppose. I know that unless I believe the job they had took was evil, I would never make them pick between me and their promotion and especially not if it was because I had wanted their position.

“LinkedIn’s survey further suggests many millennials see friendships at work as purely functional: One-third said they “think socializing with colleagues helps them move up the career ladder,” compared with only 5% of boomers. Workplace friendships not only made millennials happy — half of those surveyed said such relationships motivate them, and 30% said these friendships make them productive.”

This says that we think of friends as something to use, ummm doesn’t everyone? Humans are social creatures for a reason – those who stick together were more likely to survive and thrive. Even with the purest of intentions, you are still friends with your friends because they make you feel good. You’re still “using” them. Hopefully, it’s because it’s mutually beneficial connection – if you really care about them, it should make you feel good to see them also feeling good, right? I think we pick the friends we do because we hope the people we love make us better people. Why would I want to be friends with someone who brought out the worst in me? That’s ridiculous and it’s bad for everyone. The people you surround yourself with shouldn’t just be like-minded, they should encourage the best from you because they want you to be happy, as should you with them. I will also point out that millennials make more of point of taking jobs that reflect who they are and what they believe in, than earlier generations. When our friends are supporting our careers, it’s because they’re also supporting the principles we both believe in.

As for being disloyal to the job, I think millennials are more honest with the world about whether or not their sense of fulfillment is at a level that is actually productive where they’re working – both for ourselves AND for the world around us. Thanks to the internet, we’re more aware about things like corporate corruption (and with this economy, there might be more obvious corruption now than there was for our parents). If I go into a job thinking it’s a good place that makes a difference in the world and then find out it’s lying to its customers or treats its employees badly, why the hell would I want to stay around and support that (assuming I didn’t think I could make a difference)? I’m not so desperate for money that I will betray what I believe in. I hope that I’d never do it regardless of my situation.

My parents (yes, one of which is a baby-boomer), were the ones that taught me to support the right thing and to do things that I felt were meaningful to me. How am I supposed to be a good employee if I’m not motivated where I am? Even if the organization is a good place but I just don’t feel motivated at what I’m doing, than there’s probably someone who would do a better job and I could probably make a bigger difference at a place where I felt I cared about my work. I want to know my work means something, not just that I’m earning a paycheck. Having money isn’t as important to me as doing meaningful work. If it means I sacrifice luxury living, I am ok with that.

I think older generations were taught that you didn’t have a choice. Being a good, loyal employee meant putting your head down and working hard for who hired you, no matter what. It was about slaving away and “bringing home the bacon.” That’s admirable, but blind obedience isn’t always what’s right. Loyalty to me means standing by the principals and people that I believe are doing good things. If I don’t see that happening, goodbye.

 

The “Things that Go Bang-Bang in the Night” Debate

I refuse to debate this topic as it has run itself into the ground already, but I will leave my opinion about gun control and the causes behind mass shootings here on my blog if someone so desires to read them. Personally, I think that there are many reasons why an individual chooses to hurt others in mass numbers and because it’s a complicated issue, it would make sense that there are many issues that need to be acted on to fix it (counseling, better security, the negative effects of patriarchy on both sexes, whatever). Whenever I hear, “oh if we just did this one thing” or “we just did that one thing,” yeah I doubt it. Was there ever really just one reason that lead a person to ruin their life or the lives of others? However, while I believe poor gun control is a big factor in the mass shootings, I hate guns for many reasons beyond this debate. If I never see another gun again, it will be too soon. Yes, there are many ways to kill a person or be killed, but few of those things were designed solely with the purpose to kill, destroy, wipe out everything around it.

But A.J.Lion, what about knifes that were designed to be weapons? Bombs? Cannons? YES. ANYTHING THAT WAS DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY TO KILL IS SOMETHING I ABHOR.

I am not interested in destruction, I am interested in creation. I am interested in love and life and preserving it. If people think that this particular fact is something to make fun of me for or that I should be ashamed of it, I think there is something seriously wrong with you.

I understand that some people will always obtain guns illegally. This is why I am ok with the police and military having guns as a necessary evil. However, based off other majorly developed countries like Australia who have banned guns altogether, it is working out quite well for them. If it has simply yet to fail…then at LEAST they’re getting a break from the mass shootings momentarily. And yes, they actually are. They are not crime-free, but there have been no mass killings in Australia since the guns were taken away.

I will never convince people who love their inanimate, destructive objects to be ok with the idea of losing their possessions that obviously just love them back so much, but you will never convince me to love something that only destroys. I get attached to things too, like my guitar and my trumpet and my art sets. But my passions are used to create entertainment, create constructive discourse about life, and heal the soul. No one ever died from a mass killing due to guitar. It’s simply an ineffective instrument of death. One might take out a solo, particularly weak and pompous flutist, but good luck taking down the rest of the band once you break its neck over their head.

For those of you sick of the gun debate, you can join me and Jon Stewart in mocking the poor and repetitive media coverage of which really only shows us one useful thing, America just can’t agree and refuses to get its shit together:

http://www.upworthy.com/another-mass-shooting-lets-run-with-this-story-on-kim-kardashians-cat-instead-says-news-media?c=ufb1

 

“Don’t worry, you’ll find someone someday.”

This statement is ridiculous. Oh really, “I’ll find someone someday”? How vague and completely ungrounded in facts can you possibly get? No, this is not about “negative thinking” this is about you, saying something that is bullshit. Lies are not completely useless in the modern world, but they are rarely a good idea. This statement borders on lying, because you are claiming something that is very important to someone without having any evidence. Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. But what if you never meet that fish? What if that fish simply doesn’t exist? Neither of these thoughts are particularly helpful to you, but neither is saying, “Don’t worry, I could meet them right around the next corner I turn.” Umm, yeah I guess? But why are you so focused on finding a significant other to begin with? There “could” also be a God, but we can’t prove it. Is particularly helpful to someone who’s not sure it’s true and questions it every day to hear from society over and over again, “Oh don’t worry, he DOES exist, just don’t think about it.” Do you really think that’s going to settle their questions? This isn’t about whether or not God exists to be clear, but it’s also not about whether or not your “soul mate” really exists either. While I may not be able to prove that this person does exist, I also can’t prove that they don’t, but one way or another, is it really all that healthy for a person to just sit around being told “yes” or “no” and not simply living their life? I personally think that it IS harmful to be told over and over again that this perfect match/soulmate exists because then people obsess over finding them or believe that their current relationship is somehow lacking. We all having things that are wrong for us and none of us will have perfect relationships. It hurts to be told that my life is somehow less than perfect because I’m not pursuing anything, that I’m not looking hard for anything in particular when that perfect person could somehow be just out of my reach. Why can’t it be normal for me to just want to live my life with or without someone? Or at least to just not worry about it unless it falls into my lap? You cannot really “work at” finding a good match for you, you either run into them or you don’t, so why worry about it?

I personally believe that if you’re single and you’ve been having bad luck, there is only one thing you can do to improve your chances and that is to create new opportunities to meet new people, and even that will not guarantee anything. Please don’t tell me that I’ll find someone. Just tell me that I’m a good person and to keep being me. Whether or not I meet someone, whether or not you meet someone, it’s all going to be ok – so long as you do not determine your worth as a human being based on whether or not you’ve been lucky enough to meet someone who’s a good match romantically for you. It’s nice, but it’s not necessary. It is a natural desire that most (but not even all of us humans) are born with, but you will not die without it. Don’t convince yourself or allow others to beat the idea into your head that being with someone is what matters most. “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone someday”…or you won’t, and everything will be just fine. But worrying about that question’s honest answer will only imprint one idea onto your mind…that being with someone is of the utmost importance and requires all your attention. Puzzling over a question you will never be able to foresee the answer to is pointless, so is believing it’s as important as everyone says it is. Believe that your living your life is what is important.

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