This post is an elaboration of #1 from a list of things I’ve learned late in life.
I advise friends who are looking for a decent romantic partner to be wary of those who lead obscure lives. My own litmus test is whether the person is active on Facebook. I’ve discovered the following about persons who are afraid to make their lives moderately public.
“Who are you kidding? You’re no lamb” the wolf snarled through teeth oozing drool while facing the hound through the fog.
“That does not make me a wolf” the hound retorted and held his ground as the herd shifted nervously behind him.
“What business do you have defending creatures not even of your own species?” the wolf growled.
“What business do you have preying on the innocent simply for the sake of sport?” the hound replied. “It’s not as if you haven’t eaten recently.”
“I provide a service” the wolf said while staring aloft in an attempt to add dignity to his words. “I provide sheep with the scars that liberate them from their pathetic innocence.”
The hound eyes blazed. “And those that limp around life never recovered from their wounds? I also provide a service; to inform those I feel compassion for that you are a dishonest beast only interested in their consumption.”
“Where is your loyalty?” the wolf snarled. “Carnivores ought to share the available prey, and not snitch out those who might be wolves.”
“Were I to consume your pups, would you hold to your rule?” the hound inquired. “You’re merely conjuring up arbitrary rules in an attempt to advance your own ignoble agenda. Having fangs does not make us the same as yours are predatory, and mine are reserved for tearing apart your flanks should you ever pursue any lamb I have chosen to protect.”
Snarling one last innocuous time, the wolf slunk back into the fog.
Moral: Don’t even think about taking advantage of my friends and family.
Motivation: Recent exchanges with wolves I tolerate, but do not respect.
I just friended another Tokyo friend on Facebook only to discover he is connected to 3 of my other friends, all from different segments of my Tokyo life. The foreign community here is amazing in that there do not exist many of the enmities you’ll find in other places. Not only do the Israelis and Palestinians and the Indians and Pakistanis party together here, but you’ll even find the British and the French civilly chatting over a drink. Whenever I crash a picnic or party, I now expect to see several friends and acquaintances. And most of these are not fellow Americans. They range from South Africans to Uzbekistanis. My Japanese friends here also tend to be more international, and show up at the same spots.
Whenever I feel over-socialized, I now have to head far out of town and poke my head into a new coffee shop. If I see no one I know, I sigh in relief, and settle into a good book, knowing I’m not going to be disturbed for a few minutes by a familiar face.
I will admit that I do much of my studying at coffee shops where I am guaranteed the distraction of friends. And even a good book has only so much draw. After an hour of reading, I’m talking to the person next to me whether I knew them previously or not. Two minutes in I’ll inevitably hear “Are you on Facebook?“
Everyone divides their social world into two domains. One of inclusion and one of exclusion; the people they feel comfortable interacting with, and those people they avoid. In high school, many of us were not very inclusive due to the many insecurities that abound in a hyper-hormonal and ill-defined dynamic social context.
These insecurities may have included
- a fear of self-revelation and subsequent ridicule,
- a need to position one’s self in what then seemed like a superior social group and to disassociate yourself from the “uncool”,
- and a need to define one’s self in contrast to the enormous bulk of “idiots” that you’ve relegated to the domain of exclusion.
If these insecurities are carried into adulthood, the bulk of one’s social interactions remain in a diminished space in which a great many positive experiences must be forfeited. Continue reading
Not too many would argue with the notion that a high degree of altruism is a fundamental component of real happiness.
The problem with altruism is that the most altruistic are often smothered by the most demanding and self-absorbed personalities. This dynamic requires a mature altruism in which the giver addresses only real needs, and also establishes and maintains a weaning mechanism for the self-absorbed. In very few cases does a perpetual pacifier for the chronically selfish result in happiness for the giver. This has the clinical tag “co-dependence”.
Therefore, a wise giver must be self-aware enough to understand their own limitations, and also be aware of which of the needy are most worthy of assistance. The worthy are likely not the ones with their mouths opened widest. Continue reading
Years ago I had a friend who self-destructed into a bitter and self-absorbed identity that finally made it impossible for me to maintain the friendship. His refusal to listen to his friends and family who were painfully watching his personality take this strange turn for the worse seemed to be merely a reaction to those he considered enemies who were also rightfully suggesting that he was acting like a fool.
So the option to soften up in light of the advice from people who cared about him he completely dismissed due to the fact that the fools on the other side were making the point much less politely. Instead of being an agent with freewill as he claimed he was, he was actually a predictable product of the people he hated.
It’s rather ironic that I live such a stress-free life in such a stressed-out country. But I don’t feel even a little guilty. I can’t imagine trading my life with anyone, or selling my lack of stress for any dollar amount.
Some may feel that, unless there is at least a modicum of stress in your life, you’re lacking in ambition or character. Perhaps, but it may be just that I actually enjoy doing what others call work. Currently I teach a few hours a week, do a bit of programming and dabble in design. If I did any one of those full-time, I’d be annoyed. However, these 3 activities satisfy my natural needs for social interaction, mental challenges and creative ventures, respectively. None of them feel like work.
In addition to my career choices, there are habits in my life that also contribute to this feeling of stress-free contentment. Let me mention a few.