Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Idiot-syncracies

Is mental illness a fad? I have to admit that I wonder about this. It seems we keep various diagnoses and psychiactric catch-phrases as readily on hand as we do our driver's licenses, car keys, and debit cards. They are a necessary part of life--a way to function, a way to be understood by both ourselves and others. We love these invisible, clincial crutches that comfortably bear our infirmities, making us the innocent bystanders in Darwin's lottery. God save the gene, you might say. If it's not a fad, it certainly seems our society is as adept at churning out defunct psychoses as it is quarter pounders with cheese (hold the onions, thank you very much).

With that being said, who among us is not, at the bare minimum, a partial OCD victim? Don't we all willingly (and gleefully?) embrace illogical habits? I know I have several. I wish to present a list, and I'm hoping others will feel free to share their own irrational customs. If I think of any more, I will add them to the comments. But for now, here goes...

  1. I have to alternate the direction that I eat my pizza crusts. That is to say, if the first crust that I eat is eaten from left to right, I will eat the next one from right to left. This keeps things balanced. As you may be able to guess, it is difficult for me to eat an odd amount of pizza slices and feel okay about it, because this naturally throws off the cosmic balance I am trying to ensure. Also, if I eat left-to-right and then right-to-left, I will likely eat the next crust right-to-left again. Why? Because now it is time to go right-to-left first and then go left-to-right. It's like a pattern. RL,LR,LR,RL. It's like a neat little bookended experience.
  2. Most of my idiosyncracies deal with balance, it seems. My mother would say this is the Libra in me. Who knows, but it's true. With that being said, if I am eating something like cashews or peanut M&M's (something small that I am eating one at a time), I will alternate which side of my mouth I chew it on. And, like pizza crusts, I am likely to do a revolving pattern, e.g. left-right-right-left, etc. I may vary it from time to time, but only if I can keep it balanced overall.
  3. Speaking of M&M's, I do not like to eat the same color M&M back-to-back. In fact, I even prefer not to eat similar colors back-to-back. For example, I will try to avoid yellow followed by orange, or orange followed by red. I'd much rather alternate between light and dark. Blue, yellow, brown, green, red, etc. That would be a good rotation. When I am nearing the end of my snacking (whatever is in my hand or left in the bag or what have you), I have to begin planning how I will eat the remaining candies. I actually plan it out when I get down to eight or so candies remaining. I try to choose a diverse and fluid progression to make my snacking the most enjoyable it can be. And I will probably not want to end on a less-appealing color, such as brown. So that comes into play as well.
  4. It would very much bug me to drink Coke from a glass (or wax cup or whatever) that said Pepsi on it. And vice versa, of course. It's worse that they are blatantly opposing brands of cola. It's not as bad if the drinks aren't quite the same, such as putting Mountain Dew in a Pepsi glass. I could probably handle this, though it's not prefered. It would be worse to put Mountain Dew in a Coke glass since Mountain Dew is made by Pepsi. But even that would not be as bad as Pepsi in a Coke glass. Funny enough, I could drink milk out of a Coke glass and not be that bugged at all. But sodas must preserve some sort of brand fidelity when it comes to the cups I use. But even this gets somewhat tricky. It would probably bug me more to put Pepsi in a Mountain Dew cup than vice versa. That's because Mountain Dew is made by Pepsi, but Pepsi is not made by Mountain Dew. Also, Mountain Dew is so fruity and bright that it would be really weird to have a dark soda in an MD glass. How complicated, wouldn't you say?

So there are a few habits that I feel a natural inclination toward. I can't help that I feel these things, or at least I don't believe that I can. Will they remain with me for the rest of my life? It wouldn't surprise me. But luckily I don't consider them all that burdensome. That, of course, would make it much worse. I know all of you must have things like this. Please share. I look forward to it.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Addiction

In one of my classes this past semester, we discussed addiction. What is addiction? Obviously, there is no widely accepted answer. Just theories. A behavior you want to stop but engage in anyway? This is a common answer, but is it too broad a definition? Does it cover more than addicitons?

I don't know, personally. But I will admit that, having had this class, I've decided you can be addicted to almost anything. Actually, I think anybody would agree to this, but what I mean is that even things we don't normally view as addictions very well can be. Such as? Anxiety, laziness, self-consciousness, loneliness, hopelessness. I really think you can be addicted to these things as much as anything else. You can be addicted to certain attitudes. Could depression just be an addiction to a bleak perspective on life? I almost buy into that. I think I was addicted to this once. I didn't want to be that way, I despised feeling hopeless and I hated the thought of allowing myself to fall further and further into a rut. But I did it anyway. And why? Because it was easier to give into it. Because I could disappear into inaction and denial and become temporarily numbed. Doesn't this sound like a drug?

Do we ever go through life not wanting something to change? Is it even healthy not to have something we want to change about ourselves? If we don't have something we know needs to change, aren't we just kidding ourselves, pretending to be perfect when of course that is impossible? But isn't it depressing to think there's always something making us less-than-we-could-and-should-be? Something within ourselves that is grossly insufficient? Must we choose between despising ourselves and being ignorant? Are those the only options? How does one balance an honest self-assessment with hope and self-worth? Is it possible? How?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Throwing in the Towel

If you've never experienced microcotton, I urge you to make haste to your nearest Bed, Bath, and Beyond and indulge in the tactile euphoria that is a microcotton bath towel. Two days ago, Melanie and I discovered this revolutionary textile sensation whilst browsing BB&B's otherwise no-frills towel selection. It was unbelievable. It made Egyptian cotton feel like sandpaper. No exaggeration. It was difficult to leave the store without purchasing one of these babies. Perhaps it is for the best ... how could I ever leave my apartment again if, everytime I showered, my nude body was to be succored by this luxurious fabric? But the truth is, I have an unused gift certificate to Mervyn's that I plan to use on one of these, assuming they will have them available. My heart weeps at the inability to describe these towels adequately, but this will have to do for now. Until next time...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Finally!

It's approximately one hour since I got out of my final final of the Fall 2004 semester. Whew! It's over! I knew the time had to come, but it's nice to have it here. Whenever it gets to finals week, I generally spend time counting down the hours to freedom. Quite literally. My only solace comes in recognizing that, although I may question how I will actually do everything I need to, x hours from now it will be over.

So how did it all go? The two papers I had to write (this is in addition to the two I mentioned in my last blog) went pretty well. Combined, they totaled 16 pages, but I guess that isn't too horrible. In fact, it was probably the most efficient (I was going to say best, but I don't think that's necessarily the case) writing I've ever done. By that, I mean it went relatively quickly and smoothly, coming out nearly perfect so that a ton of editing wasn't necessary. That was nice. My Greek final didn't feel quite as good as the last Greek test I had, but I'm hoping for (and expecting) a B+ for the class overall (I'm pretty good at guessing my grades ahead of time). I took my Latin final today. I think it went quite well. I expect an A in that class. I'm hoping for an A in my Senior Seminar, and I already know I got an A- in my philosophy of religion class, which is what I had expected.

You'd probably think I'd feel pretty carefree at this point, right? I guess I do, relatively speaking. I don't think I feel as much a sense of relief and freedom as I have in times past. Perhaps this is because I am already expecting the worst from next semester. This isn't an unfounded paranoia, mind you. I have heard the teacher is quite demanding. The syallabus for the class is apparently hanging on his office door already, and someone told me it looks quite harsh. That means I should be spending my entire winter break studying and preparing for next semester. This was sort of my plan anyway, since there is so much I need to improve on. But it may be a plan I need to take more seriously than I thought, and that's intimidating. I can easily see the next few weeks passing by incredibly quickly.

So that's it. I originally thought I might post more frequently now that school is out, but who knows. I will probably be busy with other things. I hope to read a few books of my own choosing before I'm back in school. I got a handful from the library, but it's a matter of being diligent. I always enjoy reading, but for some reason I have a hard time choosing that above other things. There's always an excuse -- I want to do something more social, I want to be out of the house, I'm too tired and I'll fall asleep, etc. I think it will help not to be burdened with school. That makes reading seem less appealing, since I have to do so much of it for classes as is. Granted, it's not the same type of reading, but I think you can understand. Anyway, that's it for now, folks. Like my "real life" journal, I never know how to end these things. That's why I usually settle for abruptness or for trailing off. What should I do this time? Hmmm...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Dead Air

It is time to steal a moment away from my busy schedule and engage in the superfluous activity of blogging. I have been under exorbitant amounts of stress as of lately, but finally the pressure is beginning to ease. Though finals week is still to come, I believe the worst is well behind me. In the last week, I have written two papers, and quite frankly, I am a slow writer. This means that the papers have taken pretty much all of my time. It does not help that a close friend, Brad Hansen, was killed in a car accident over Thanksgiving weekend. How petty of me to align his passing with the pressures of an ending semester, but who can deny the horrible timing? Not I, said the pig.

Alas, I have spent the last 5½ hours or so working on the final 3½ pages of a paper. That actually seems pretty quick for me. Granted, I more or less edit as I go along, so when I'm done with the paper, there is usually not too much else to do with it. I am not going to spend hours editing it as well. Perhaps you, my faithful reader, can inform me whether or not this is slow. I probably spend 2-3 hours per page when all is said and done. I don't think that's impressive. You'd think I'd be pretty stressed considering I have one more paper to write by Monday, and it has to be about 10 pages long. That's 20-30 hours of work, I imagine. Yeah, that is stressful, but considering that's the only thing left to worry about, I feel pretty good. I do have two finals next week, one for Greek and one for Latin. Luckily, I have pretty much a full day to study for each of them with basically no other obligations. So that shouldn't be too horrible. I'm a little worried about my overall Greek grade, of course, but you get to a point where you just have to let it go.

To share some more intellectual fodder, my philosophy of religion class spent the last month or so discussing a Jewish philosopher by the name of Franz Rosenzweig. I have quite enjoyed his philosophy, at least what I have been able to understand of it. I sometimes wish I belonged to a religion that was more liturgical. I have thought that for a while, but Rosenzweig brought it home. My religion doesn't have a strong religious calendar like the Jews and Catholics, for example. Heck, it doesn't really have a religious calendar at all, I wouldn't say. But Rosenzweig believes the cycle of the religious calendar gives one a sense of the eternal in life. By going through the constant cycle of holidays and "normal" days, one gets into a rhythm that makes life bearable due to a connection with the eternal (or so I understand him to say). As he puts it:

The holiday will serve as a training school for every day. Once a man's legs are accustomed to its rhythms, he will have no difficulty walking the streets of the work-a-day world. The gait is the same. If he has been well-trained here, he will not stumble later. Rather he will halt in amazement at how simple life actually is.

My friend's passing probably makes these philosophies all the more poignant for me. But I really like them. Rosenzweig also says that a person should "direct his life to no other goal but death." This may sound morbid at first, but how can you not believe this would alleviate the anxiety of loss felt in this world? Brad's dad surprised me when Melanie and I went to the viewing. Before we could say anything, he simply said, "Boy, what a shocker, huh?" and proceeded to say how recent circumstances made him feel assured it was Brad's time to go. I guess the situation forces you to be cordial, but I was amazed at how normal he came off. I used to think it was a form of self-delusion to take comfort in the platitudes of "it was his time" or "we'll see him again" and other such clich├ęs. But if you really, really believed those things, how could you not feel better? If you could really believe that this moment means so little in the long run, and that this temporal world will in fact end, and that the only meaning this world really has is based on the fact that it will someday end, and that we should be preparing for its conclusion, how could you not take comfort?

So the question is, do I live for death? Do I live for the next world, or for this one? If I live for the next world, this world isn't nearly so intimidating. And I believe this is true. I think I have had moments when I feel more spiritual, and I do feel more of an eternal perspective that way, and then life seems less strenuous. In those moments, death almost seems like a neat opportunity, in that the important things can then be focused on in full force. This life bears constant obstacles to living for the next world. The next world, seeing as how it is the next world, allows you to live that way unhindered. Granted, I don’t know what it’s like, but death doesn’t sound scary when I’m feeling the right way. Rosenzweig speaks of “revelation as orientation,” meaning revelation helps us find ourselves connected to the eternal, and we thereby realize that we are not the center of the universe, and that this moment—the present—is not the center of time. Every moment is somewhere specific on a timeline that is going to end one day and become nothing. Time will turn into eternity. If that’s where we’re going to spend all of our time, why be so scared or sad to go there? Or to see somehow else go there? Death can be beautiful when viewed properly. This is not to say loss does not hurt, but you get my point. I hope. I just found a Latin quote for you: "Crudelius est quam mori semper timere mortem" (It is more cruel to fear death than to die) - Seneca.

Anyway, this has turned into a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness post. I hope you don’t mind. To end on a lighter note, I coincidentally watched a sitcom the other day wherein someone's aunt committed suicide. She did not leave a note, and some people were discussing how rude they felt that was. One of them says, "Would it have killed her to leave a note?" I always appreciate comic genius. Until next time…