Visible and Invisible Progress

This: This is something I’ve begun to feel over the past year, that the pursuit of a Ph.D./position in academia and the pursuit of knowledge are two different things. They overlap, but they’re not the same, and it makes me sad.

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Egoism vs. Egotism, X vs. Myopic X

I still feel there to be circular blockages. Are they really circular though? Firstly, I really want to Do Something New. By “want” I mean some combination of “desire,” “should,” “need to,” and “am afraid I won’t.” Firstly, my value system says that a little bit of something new is many times more valuable than just doing the same old. However, this leads to the same problem as the “myopic egotism problem.” The myopic x problem is the problem where I’m motivated by x, but I *cling* to x, and won’t do things that help me achieve x if they involve stepping outside of x for a moment. So being myopically x hinders my accomplishing x. I have the myopic egotism problem: when becoming a better person (ultimate goal is egotistic) means forgetting myself and being open and listening to other people (which involves temporarily suspending egotism), I have trouble. The myopic creativity problem is when I put myself in front of an empty screen and try to write, when coming up with something to write involves reading, watching, and studying books/movies/etc., talking to and doing things with people, and learning more about the world. Myopic egotism and myopic creativity together make me think everything I do should come from myself, and prevent me from “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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Emptiness, I

Woke up on the edge of meaning. There’s a cliff by my bedside. The other is a wall. I want to sleep forever, but dreams desert me: like potions they demand raw ingredients, fresh kills under the sunlight. Taking a deep breath, I begin my daily fall.

(from 11/22/13)

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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, is whirlpooly. I want to harness that sadness, that wanting, but I’m just whirlpooling.