black_son_of_gray's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
classical_Liberal
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

daylen wrote:
Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:46 am
Point is that it is not really any different from using 'faith', 'power', 'status', 'wealth' etc. as a chant to yourself that you are what you want to be.
I'm reaching a point where I actually believe this to be the most effective way to live a good life. Reality is very much in the eye of the beholder, since no one can know everything in a deep enough way to deconstruct it logically, from a materialistic view. So, better off living in your perceptions/delusions in many areas.

7Wannabe5
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

bsog wrote: What's tragicomic about all of this is that the path towards ERE goes straight through optimization/maximization right before branching out into systems and networks, so the natural evolution of mindsets might predispose thinking this way. But it could be dangerous to combine the two approaches ("optimization" & "systems") without some careful consideration. Systems are simply different beasts, and the skills don't always "stack."

The disconnect I'm observing in my own life between local and global reference frames, the insidiousness of the changes that I need to "refit my curve to" is slightly unsettling to me.
Who cleans the toilets in your local reference frame? What grows at the edge of your nearest wilderness?

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

I've had a bunch of thoughts on a variety of topics bouncing in my head for a couple weeks/months now, and for whatever reason, I'm in a writing mood. So expect a flurry of posts over the next few days, because writing is the most effective way I know for processing those thoughts.

For those that regularly read this journal (why?? :lol: ) and are looking for ERE-related content, you might be disappointed for a bit ("He's just blathering on about his own mental hangups!"). Just a heads-up.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

An Epilogue Life

Over the last decade, it seems like I've been slowly working my way through Kurt Vonnegut's whole catalogue. Not all of his works are particularly notable or recommendable. Deadeye Dick is one of those novels*. And yet, somewhere towards the end of that novel there was this amazing chapter that really struck a chord with me. In the midst of the storytelling, there was a brief intermission where Vonnegut just laid out this one-two punch of life wisdom. I don't have access to the full chapter right now (read it a long time ago), but the gist is summed up in this quote:
If a person survives an ordinary span of sixty years or more, there is every chance that his or her life as a shapely story has ended and all that remains to be experienced is epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.
For about a year and a half—since leaving my job and moving across the country—I've been living with my SO in my SO's mother's house in the Bay Area. SO wanted to get some personal business stuff accomplished and I was happy to put her interests in the forefront for a while (she'd done it for me when I was in post doc). I was also happy to just go with the flow to a new place, decompress from work life, see how I liked things, see what struck my fancy, see what new interests might bubble up. See what lessons I might learn.

Well, here I am a year and half later, and I've learned some lessons. Here's one: I want to avoid an epilogue life.

As I enter into a post-employment phase of my life that will be heavily determined by self initiative, SO's mother has turned out to be a perfectly-timed example of what I don't want for myself**. Without diving into personal details, SO's mother has been FI for over 3 decades. And what has she done with the last thirty years free from corporate drudgery, with a wide-open schedule, with the resources to live boldly and zestfully and the relative youth to enjoy it? The answer: pretty much nothing***. Life is not over, but the story has been for a long time.

I'm not saying all of this to denigrate SO's mother or her choices in life. It's more that I've seen how easily my life could go down that path of turning into a hermit, of becoming a living ghost—only half in the world, and mostly forgotten by it. I don't want that at all—and, importantly, I know that now—but I also know that there is a certain gravity of that lifestyle that's always faintly tugging on me. I'm not naturally restless. There are usually tiny little mental hurdles I have to hop over to get projects/activities started. And to be honest, it kind of scares the bejesus out of me. From what I can tell, the further down you are pulled by that gravity, the harder it is to get out. Some never do.

Lesson learned: I don't want my story to be over.

With that in mind, I've got more motivation than usual to get going with life plans. SO and I have been itching to move out and start the next chapter of our lives. In fact, we were within days of embarking on a month+ long house-shopping trip across Oregon and Washington when the coronavirus shelter-in-place laws put the kibosh on that. Maybe that's why it feels like we're just treading water right now. Maybe that's why this idea of "epilogue" keeps popping up in my head.

*Don't read it because of this post. Please.
**One of my favorite demotivators: "It may be that your only purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others." :D
***Maybe you're thinking "Oh, she doesn't really do nothing—she just plays around with some hobbies or hangs out with friends or family." Allow me to emphasize the point. She does nothing. She has no hobbies. She has no friends. She avoids picking up the phone when family calls.

AxelHeyst
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

This seems like extremely ERE related content to me. Being an irrelevant nobody is a core fear of mine as well, as someone who also struggles sometimes to muster enough ‘activation energy’ to initiate endeavors. I’m looking forward to further thoughts.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

Mental Health Resources

A pretty simple, non-exhaustive post. These are some of the resources that come to mind that have been most helpful to me since reaching adulthood. Probably not too unexpected to many here, but I figured I would gather them in one place.

Mental health:
  • The classic Stoics: Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and The Discourses from Epictetus are the ones I've chosen to own. These are the only books I've specifically requested as a gift in who knows how long, and I pick them up and browse at least once a year.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I'm somewhat shocked this hasn't made it into high school curriculum (could you imagine if it did??). Regardless of whether you think you "need help", a good/well-regarded book about CBT or related therapies is well worth the time. Also very useful for understanding others. After learning the various unhelpful mental habits that plague all of us, I couldn't help but see them everywhere, in others and in myself. And once you see it, you can choose more productive ways of thinking. I've also read a couple books by the somewhat quirky Albert Ellis.
  • I went through a spell in grad school when I would list to Tara Brach while walking to and from work. It helped a lot with anxiety and difficult personalities in the lab.
  • Why Buddhism Is True by Robert Wright. Just a great explainer without a lot of dogma or jargon. Glad I read it before Siddhartha.
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman. It's easier to lighten up on yourself when you realize how buggy our brains really are.
  • Thoreau and Emerson. I don't know why but reading Self-Reliance or Life Without Principle (my personal favorite) gives me a huge shot in the arm.
  • Some parts of Atomic Habits by James Clear were very eye-opening to me. This book is just very good and practical if you need help self-structuring your life.
Understanding and dealing other people:
  • Getting to Yes, aka "interest-based" negotiation
  • Games People Play - Jacob mentioned this somewhere, so I read it. Put a whooole lot of annoying social interactions into perspective.
  • "Kegan levels", aka Robert Kegan's Theory of Adult Development (nice overview part 1, part 2, and part 3). His book is In Over Our Heads (ERE thread here), which unfortunately I can't get from the library :cry:
Feel free to chime in with your own gems or start another thread/add to an existing mental health thread.
Last edited by black_son_of_gray on Thu Apr 30, 2020 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

classical_Liberal
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

What @BSOG is describing in his MiL are exactly the types of things that were happening to me during my first run of "off" time in semi-ERE. I started to lose motivation to do the things I used to want to do... because free time seemed unlimited. My solution was to go back to work for awhile. It worked in that it revived my sense of urgency with free time, but after a couple months of FT work, I reverted back to not using free time well because I was so exhausted. This is a fine line.

I think certain people have some serious internal motivations. Some have virtually zero. As of yet, I'm not sure if this is base personality dependant or if this can be learned behavior. I do know I'm somewhere in between, but closer to the low-end internal motivation. Either I need to find external motivators, which don't have to be a job, but do have to have some form of external accountability. Or I need to learn the behaviors of more internal based motivations, if that's possible. Without one or the other I run the risk of being a "mailbox" watching man (something from @7WB5's observations of her very wealthy polymers), or @BSOG's MiL. I don't ever want to be a "story over" person.

fingeek
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by fingeek »

Thanks for the wisdom @BSOG and book list. Yep, pretty much the same experience with me as c_L - When I had my test retirement year, it was great for a while but the 'infinite' time and lack of discipline/direction ended up in feeling meaninglessness and lack of motivation to do some of the things I originally planned. I went back to work and still enjoy it for now (~6 months in). I'm definitely not ready for my epilogue and that's a really good way to frame the situation!

It reminds me of a quote: "Wherever you go, there you are".

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

classical_Liberal wrote:
Wed Apr 29, 2020 12:37 am
I started to lose motivation to do the things I used to want to do... because free time seemed unlimited. My solution was to go back to work for awhile.
In my case, I think the driving factor is environment. Many of the things I want to do involve dramatic re-purposing of whole sections of my home environment—e.g. ripping up a lawn and putting in a garden, taking over rooms for workshop space, unconventional retrofitting/modifying of utilities—and this just isn't possible living in someone else's home/property, especially when they have conventional tastes/want to "look normal". No amount of polite reassurances to "please make yourself at home!" will allow the kinds of things I really want to do. So my only solution right now is to be respectful and just sit on my hands for a while, while ideas not acted on eventually die and go away. And after all, it's so easy to just not do the thing...small little confinements like this over and over and eventually you just accept the box.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

The Poop on Easy Determinants of Environmental "Seriousness"

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a very basic and easy-to-calculate health metric that, while not perfect for certain groups in the population, is amazingly informative.

Most people can't accurately guess their BMI. They almost always think they are thinner than they really are. The same is true for "environmentalism"/"sustainability"/"green-ness." We all live in Lake Wobegon.

The other day I came up with something similar (I think!) with respect to a person's "level of commitment of environmentalism." Like BMI, it's pretty basic, is amazingly informative, and only requires just a little bit of information. The only information you need is the response to this simple request: "Describe your toilet."

Here's my logic. People do lots of "environmentally friendly"/"green" /"sustainable" activities for a lot of different reasons. Some people bike-commute because it's cheaper or because it's good exercise rather than chiefly because it is better for the environment than driving. Or maybe someone has solar panels because they are actually more reliable than the grid in certain areas, or because they get paid back by the utility company or because it increased the value of their property. You can come up with multiple reasons for just about anything "green." [In ERE terms we might say that many of these activities are highly interconnected nodes in a diverse web-of-goals.]

Or people do a lot of things that they think are "green," but it's really just the same consumptive pattern with a different consumer product swamped out. LEDs for incandescents, etc. Maybe it's a little better, but the warm fuzzy environmentally friendly halo isn't exactly warranted. And there wasn't really any effort needed on their part. No real sacrifice.

And that's where toilets are somewhat special, because there are few other incentives. But let's back up for a minute. What toilet descriptions am I talking about?

Responses to "Describe your toilet":
  • 99%+ of responses will be: "Uhh... it's white; I poop in it, then pull the lever and away it goes."
  • <10% of the above might add something like: "I added a brick/milk jug to the tank so it uses less water" or "I bought a low-flow" or "you know, it's kind of a shame that we in go through the whole process of producing drinking water and then we use it for peeing and pooping."*
  • <1% have even considered using gray water/rain water for flushing. Even fewer will have actually rejiggered their setup.
  • <<0.1% will start talking about buckets, sawdust, and humanure.
The bottom of that list (the <1%) are the hardcore environmental folks. There's just no other good reason to rethink how you handle poop and pee. It doesn't save you time or money or make you look good to your peers. It's not aspirational and it won't make you healthier. Hell, it doesn't even really save much in the way of resources. Your motivation has to be pretty strong, especially if the environmental returns are probably pretty low. Even if it doesn't smell, even if it actually is pretty easy to throw a scoop of sawdust on top when done, flushing is always going to be easier than cleaning out the poop bucket at the end of the week.

Some caveats: I'm talking about developed countries. Like BMI, there will be weird groups this doesn't apply to.

I'm putting no moral value judgement on the answer—simply observing that if someone gives a non-standard 99%-type answer to this specific question, they are almost certainly a few standard deviations deeper into environmental seriousness than the average person. It just cuts through the clutter of bike-commuters, solar panel owners, and the consume-your-way-to-green-ness crowd in a nice, efficient way.

And if you're wondering, I myself am also confused as to why I put so much time and effort thinking about this kind of thing, writing it up, and posting it on the Internet.

*Somewhere in the list of responses, there'll be a decent number of people that will start talking about their septic system. I'm not exactly sure if/how that impacts this analysis.

classical_Liberal
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal »

What does "if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" get? I'm certainly not a 1%er. :lol:
black_son_of_gray wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:10 pm
*Somewhere in the list of responses, there'll be a decent number of people that will start talking about their septic system. I'm not exactly sure if/how that impacts this analysis.
Liquid waste goes right back into the groundwater, filtered by soil. I'm not sure where the septic waste goes. I'll think positive and hope it gets sold by the companies that pump it out and transformed into some form of fertilizer.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

Yeah, I definitely practice IIYLIM,IIBFID—and for environmental reasons, actually, even though I know it probably makes little difference overall. I figure it saves at least 15 gal a day for me (I pee a lot*). It's just so trivially easy to do! Maybe it's in the "<10%" category. I'm also not a 1%er, but we'll see once SO and I buy a house...

I average around 20-30 gal a day for everything, which is well below the standard ~100 gal/day/American that I remember seeing somewhere on the web. I could get down to ~10, but to do so I'd have to get "weird" (i.e. non-"middle class" toilet, laundry, and shower setup) in a way that isn't easy living in someone else's house.

*When this whole coronavirus thing hit and I saw some statistics about how frequently people get colds on average per year, I was shocked. I tried to figure out why I don't seem to get sick as much, and while there was a decently long list of potential reasons, it dawned on me that a big reason could be because I pee so much. The whole "wash your hands frequently" advice is pretty easy to follow if you down a lot of water throughout the day. Nature reminds you ever hour or two ;).

AxelHeyst
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Septic tank= you live in the sticks and it’s your only (code-legal) option. No change to your environmental thinking system I think, they’re irrelevant to the point of where someone’s thinking is at.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

BSOG, would you mind going into more detail about what exactly your MIL does all day? Ending up with an Epilogue Life is one of my worst fears too, and so I think it's helpful to think exactly why this happens. I know I have several friends who are living Epilogue Lives too, and it scared me so much that I decided that even corporate is a better fate.

In my case, I have friends who are in their 30s, never really had a job, spend all day writing Internet erotica, hyper focused on some media to the point they forget IRL exists, etc. My grandparents also managed to fall into this trap while watching antenna TV without an Internet connection, so clearly there's something beyond just being a basement-style NEET like my friends that enable this to happen. I suppose it's the trap of having all your needs covered for you--it can be easy to let the freedom become an enabler of your bad habits. Maybe it has something to do with not accepting negative feedback of life? So these people retreat into themselves.

That "Road to Semi-Retirement" book talks about this a little too, and it's one reason the author basically says "you need to retire to" something. In the author's case, he retired to being a sculptor.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

@AnalyticalEngine - Well, let's just say the examples you provided are consistent and your analysis seems right on the money:
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:59 am
I suppose it's the trap of having all your needs covered for you
Lack of impetus/motivation, whether external (e.g. need to have a job to make money) or internal (e.g. I want to do [a,b,c] with my life, and as a result I'm going to do [x,y,z] right now). Most people have some form of external by default. Less people have the internal by default.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:59 am
it can be easy to let the freedom become an enabler of your bad habits. Maybe it has something to do with not accepting negative feedback of life? So these people retreat into themselves.
Big one, I think. Certain personality traits (e.g. low openess), certain mental health habits (which exacerbate and reinforce anxiety/insecurity/etc...), certain environments (e.g. family members, Hillbilly Elegy) are self-perpetuating. This underlies a lot of the 'gravity' I was talking about. A bad combination of those...
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:59 am
I think it's helpful to think exactly why this happens.
Agree, although as I think about it I'm reminded of that Tolstoy line: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." So maybe we should be focusing on the shared set of properties among the successful rather than the unsuccessful? I dunno.
AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:59 am
That "Road to Semi-Retirement" book talks about this a little too, and it's one reason the author basically says "you need to retire to" something. In the author's case, he retired to being a sculptor.
I'm completely on board with diving deep into the arts/picking up a craft or two. Something that is interesting, satisfying, a field filled with new ideas and interesting people, a bunch of new skills to learn. There's no money in it....but thankfully you don't need it anyway. That's my plan!

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by jacob »

It's interesting you guys are so afraid of getting into a "being"-mode instead of a "doing"-mode. Some people spend years meditating or introspecting deliberately trying to exist in a state of being rather than a state of doing. Compare "an evolving story" with an "increasingly refined painting". The difference seems to be one of kind rather than degree.

black_son_of_gray
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by black_son_of_gray »

Touche! Need to think about that...
jacob wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 3:01 pm
The difference seems to be one of kind rather than degree.
You mean difference in kind rather than degree between different "being"-modes... or between "being" and "doing" modes? I feel like there might be different kinds of "being"-modes... some which are pleasant, and some which are nasty...no? I'm out of my depth here.

7Wannabe5
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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Being is when you are on the bottom. Doing is when you are on the top.

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by theanimal »

A book that touches on this being phase well is The Importance of Living by Lin Yu Tang.

I think the desire to always be doing something is just baked into American culture and it's difficult to shed. This in turn affects how you will feel about yourself or others when it comes to what they are doing while working or not (ie retirement/personal activities).

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Re: black_son_of_gray's Journal

Post by jacob »

@bsog - I mean [difference in kind] between the two modes. The two modes are on different axes and each mode has various degrees of development. They tend to be critical of each other because of mutual incomprehension. The story about the Business Man (doing) and The Mexican Fisherman (being) illustrates the difference in perspective.

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