Sunday, October 23, 2005

Acting Differently

I am trying to not do the behaviors that are motivated by the desire to be a somebody. So when I get home from work and feel “I should get to the computer and do some of my real work” I now don’t act on it. To a large degree I have been pushing myself to make up for the sacrificed time that making a living requires. I’m curious to see what kind of living results from not having to push myself to get to work during my leisure time.

So far, there’s a feeling of relief and a feeling of exasperation and fear at my giving up the only thing that means anything – being a somebody.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Modest Proposal

I’ve written about two opposing forces in me. One wants me to be a somebody by being recognized as intellectually brilliant. The other wants me to just be my unique self. I had an epiphany of how to reconcile the two. I will write a self-psychoanalytical autobiography describing the forces that cause me to be the way I am. It will be as authentic as possible and so a record and an analysis of my true self. But this self-analysis will be so brilliant and incisive that it will be recognized by others and I will be hailed as great. In that way, through revealing my authentic self I will become a somebody. I will reconcile both drives in a great, transcending, Hegelian synthesis.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Mood That Wouldn't Change

I quoted Emerson in a previous post saying that our changing moods change the world. I’ve been struck recently how my larger mood seems relatively fixed.

It’s common to find oneself, at the end of the work week, looking forward to days off and what we’ll do over the weekend and feeling a lighter, happier feeling. Or, we’ll fall into a mood in which our life looks hopeless or sad and we’ll wonder what’s the purpose of our life projects that seemed so important. Or, we’ll feel a renewed hope as our life projects feel meaningful.

I’ve been stuck in an overarching mood of despair which appears each morning I wake up and anytime I’m not occupied with some activity. While I’m distracted doing something, I’m not thinking about my situation. It’s the technique of keeping busy that many recommend to avoid painful feelings. But as soon as I stop being occupied, the conditions of my life colored by this despairing mood descend upon me. Life seems purposeless and there’s a terror at wasting my life with no sense of what could make it meaningful.

At 45, it looks like I’m not going to be a somebody as I described in my first two posts. But if I’m not going to achieve somebodyness, then what’s the point? Simply to go from activity to activity trying to feel that that’s enough?

An alternative is to see through the narrow desire to be a somebody. Don’t equate success in life with being a somebody. This is possible to do. But right now, with the somebody valuing regime holding sway, this looks like a way to make myself feel ok for failing at the only thing worth being, ie being a somebody. An attempt to fool myself into thinking that the only thing important to do in life isn’t really important. A consolation prize for failing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Battle for Selfhood

I’ve been reading about Nietzsche’s notion of drives that will their own power in John Richardson’s Nietzsche’s System. Different drives within and without have different goals and try to have their way of being prevail. Two competing drives within me have been fighting for ascendancy over the last 25 years and have fooled me regarding which I was acting out.

One drive was latent until I took the GREs in 1984 and got high enough scores to believe I could be a brilliant somebody. I now wanted to achieve intellectual somebodyness.

A second drive arose before that. While in college in 1980, I realized I didn’t want to just get any old job that made enough money and live a shell of a life. I wanted to find what I really loved doing and get paid for that. To do this I needed to discover my real interests and so who I was. Over the years I used various practices like meditation and psychotherapy to discover my unique interests and become myself.

But the line between becoming a somebody and becoming myself has been blurred because for most of the time I was unconscious of the difference and simply acted them out without awareness, as most of us live out our lives. For example, in going to graduate school for a Ph.D. in sociology, was I trying to attain somebodyness through intellectual brilliance or was I trying to follow my true interests? Or, when I started a Buddhist practice and felt drawn by the promise of enlightenment, was I trying to become myself by liberating myself from the self or become a somebody through impressive spiritual accomplishment? It’s still not clear, but at least in the last few months I’ve identified the differing drives whereas before I simply acted them out unconsciously.

This coming to consciousness about these drives appears to be an accomplishment of greater self-awareness, but what drive and what new valuing system is going to evaluate which drive is acting itself out in specific instances and be given the power to pass judgment on them? What drive is that and what’s its interests?

Or, will one simply prevail and then interpret the other in its terms? If becoming my unique self prevails then becoming a somebody will by seen to be a pathological need to gain love through intellectual recognition to compensate for past neglect. If becoming a somebody prevails, then becoming my unique self will seem like the self-help booby prize that those who are satisfied to remain anonymous nobodys convince themselves is all that’s important in life.