What is being romantic but following a feeling?

What is being romantic but following a feeling? And making life more interesting because of the pursuit of it? What is being romantic but putting stakes on things, really wanting things, so that the question of “is this good to do?” falls away and you’re just trying to attain your desire or your dream?

(Writing makes me more romantic. In a quiet sort-of way. I’m terrified of being emotionally empty. When people ask me how I think or feel about something, and I query my feelings and don’t find anything there – that is something I face. But having a world, story, character minds flow through me – it’s like spirit-water in the dreamworld, it’s like the difference between philosophical zombies and feeling humans.)


Love helps

(from diary, 12/2)

…The feeling that struck me the most was how much being happy – and a big part of that is having Friends and people who care about you and who you can talk about your interiority with (like this) – really affects the way I deal with the world. I can rage against this and call myself a prisoner to circumstance, but that’s not useful. It’s so much easier to be nice to everyone, to cooperate, to do the things that need to be done, to give people the benefit of the doubt, when I get the feeling that there are people who care about me.

The platonic ideal of morality and success is that I do whatever is Right – treating people well, working hard… – no matter the circumstances I find myself in. Treat other people well even if I don’t feel cared for, work hard even if no one shows they appreciate the work.

But that’s not reality. It’s not a matter of logical update – the feeling that I “should” work hard or be nice to people doesn’t by itself make me work hard or be nice to people.

It takes a larger shift.

The reality is that feeling loved has a huge impact. The reality is that people who are in a relationship can be more productive because they feel that love. There’s nothing moral or fair about it – it’s just the way things are.

So seek love.

“Hold on when you give love, and let go when you give it.”

Emotional residue

Once in a while I have these really emotional dreams. One thought or feeling gets drawn from deep inside my brain and in the one minute, or the thirty seconds that the dream lasts for, the feeling permeates my entire mind. Usually there isn’t anything momentous in the dream; all that matters is that I had the thought in the dream. I wake up with the thought. Sometimes I don’t even remember the whole dream, just know that it left me with a strong feeling. It can have a lasting effect for the rest of the day.

It’s weird. A conscious, lucid thought or feeling I have in a dream does something to my psyche that it wouldn’t if it were a thought I had while awake. It’s like, the thought has direct access to the deep, subconscious parts of my brain, and it just stains it immediately, like dye.

Thursday morning I woke up at 4am after a dream. In the dream I was telling my mom about how I missed M. I woke up with a great sorrow weighing me down. I felt awake, 清醒, not the least bit sleepy at all. I felt a great loneliness. I missed her so much. I couldn’t imagine not missing her, not being lonely. It was like my brain was normally many threads, but only one of them was running this time of night, giving me this feeling of pure sorrow.

I couldn’t sleep, so I recorded myself on my tablet, talking. I talked about how people are like points on this infinite-dimensional space of possible minds, and how distant we all are from each other in this vast space. How was it that the one person who was closest to me in this space had gone?

Eventually I fell asleep again. In the morning all the threads in my brain were functioning again, and the feeling had gone.

I don’t love enough

This is something I wrote near the start of this year, which I want to revisit.


I don’t feel like I have enough love in me. It’s an odd thing to acknowledge in oneself. At the end of every year I always tried to diagnose the things that I did wrong, what I need to do to improve, come up with a checklist. This year I didn’t make a list, just got this statement stuck in me, I don’t love enough.

What is love? Love is local, targeted. You can’t love the world “in general.” Love doesn’t mean anything unless it helps those who are loved. It’s hard to help the world in general; it seems paradoxical but to help the world you have to narrow your vision and help those around you first. It takes so much faith. How is pouring your soul in such a narrow flask going to amount to anything?

Being goal-oriented hurts my ability to love. It makes me want to get to know people so that we can learn things from each other, not because I truly care for them. What does that mean, to truly care for someone?

Love is a black box. In movies, people fall in love and die for each other. As a scientific person, I’ve always wanted to tear that box open. Fall in love at first sight? So cliche. Tell me how it happens. Or: how can I engineer it so that I fall in love with the right person? But the point, maybe, wasn’t in the black box. The point is always what people do for each other because of love.

I think all kinds of love are basically the same: friend, romantic, parental. Love for a career. You don’t love a friend if you just want their attention; you don’t love a partner if you just want sex; you don’t love a kid if you just want them to get rich. You can’t love writing if you just want to get famous. You can’t love research if you just want to get papers published. Love for pleasure isn’t true love. Or maybe it’s an essential part, but only part.

I’m terrified of this inability to love. When I talk to someone I imagine they have one eye out the door. Not putting their full self in the interaction, because they’re thinking, if this conversation becomes boring, if it’s not productive, I have to be on the search for one that will be more useful, something to do that will be more productive. They’ll nod to things I say, let’s meet again sometime, etc. etc., but they won’t mean it. I’m like that too sometimes, and I hate it.

I want to express myself, and I hate myself for wanting to because I think it’s all about my ego. I want to share my stories with others, and then I’m ashamed to think that they’re worth sharing.

Ego gets in the way. It really does. Ego not in the Ayn Rand sense but the typical, not-thinking-beyond-yourself sense. The “egotistical” people in Ayn Rand’s books ticked because they loved some ideal bigger than themselves, Roark loved architecture to the point where he wouldn’t let others sully it one bit.

(Sometimes maybe I exaggerate my thoughts, but that’s how things are figured out, reductio ad absurdum, or alternatively, going to an extreme and not finding a contradiction, after all.)

Mental drift is scary. When I stop talking to someone I reason it’s because we don’t have anything to gain from each other, and in this positive feedback loop I’m even less likely to talk, until I do, and find out I was wrong all along. It’s an odd thing to say you’re afraid of, feedback mechanisms in your own head.

I feel sad at all the antagonism in the world, and it’s useless sadness. Sadness is useful insofar as it spurs you to do something. Change something about the world, or your neighborhood. Sadness, as it exists in streaming form on isawyou___.com, is whirlpooly. I want to harness that sadness, that wanting, but I’m just whirlpooling.