Artificial Culture

I saw an interesting quote on Facebook today about the state of pop music. It was attributed to David Grohl, but I cannot 100% verify that he said it. Either way, I found it incredibly accurate.

16665212_1436130973110710_8209107490979029911_oWhile I would disagree that most of it is fun to listen to, he makes a very valid point – it is devoid of meaning.

I understand that every generation thinks that the younger generation’s music is crap. That is to be expected. But we have not had a case in recent history where the emotion and meaning has been so horribly stripped out of the musical scene.

We are now left with a musical landscape that is devoid of most deeper content and has been reduced to repeating I’m a stupid hoe over and over until its driven deep into the psyche of young, impressionable minds.

Artificial culture is created in a lab, much like processed food. It may have actual elements of culture (i.e. “music”, art, etc.), but it is all created in specific quantities for specific purposes. If there isn’t a particular agenda behind it, then it simply caters to the largest audience possible in order to have the most financial success. From a business point of view there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is generally devoid of meaning outside of monetary gain.

Authentic human culture is created organically and spontaneously. It can be commercial, even have wide appeal or consumption, but it generally has its roots in everyday human life. From jam sessions in garages, to impromptu bar and coffee shop performances, to music artfully written with the goal of being more than the sum of its components, real music, and thus real culture, is grown like a seed in the ground, not from a test tube in a think tank laboratory.



Offensive Cat Strollers

I enjoy watching Nomadic Fanatic, a YouTube channel by Eric Jacobs that journals his nomadic lifestyle in an RV. He travels from place to place, taking in the scenery and taking us along for the ride. He is both entertaining and informative. I highly recommended it to all my friends and family.

Until, of course, he pressed the nuclear button and offended each and every single one of the cat stroller haters out there. I had no idea their numbers were so many, but he clearly stepped in some deep RV dump station mess when he showed people a cat stroller.

Cat strollers are apparently a rare commodity, and men who are strong enough in their sexuality to be seen using one, even for a minute, not only in public but on YouTube in front of nearly a hundred thousand subscribers are almost unheard of. Since this group of brave individuals is so small, those who are jealous of this ability lashed out with comment after comment of apparent envy.

Eric has enough trouble from trolls, so I hope he takes this in stride and keeps on making awesome videos.

Don’t Be Offended

You do not have the right to be free from offense.

There are many times where things you see, hear, or watch, will offend you. These things can strike deeply into your heart, sometimes creating a wound that will keep you occupied for quite some time.  This is normal, and it will pass – if you let it.

When you feel offense, you can ignore it, react to it, or grow from it. You can actually do several of these things at once, but your actions will likely fall into these core categories.

If the statement or thought that offends you has no relation to your life can be ignored. They generally come in the form of insults, and giving them any space in your mind is playing right into the hands of the person spewing the venom.

If you react to the statement that offends you, then it is almost always a losing proposition. You are giving your attacker a foothold into your mental space. By not ignoring it, you let them successfully land a blow to your psyche. The actions that spring from this will probably have little to no growth path.

The best course of action, other than ignoring it, is to grow from the experience. Sometimes criticisms leveled at us are fairly applied, sometimes they are not. Either way, only you alone have the power to determine how this will affect your life.

Being able to process an offensive statement and make a decisive decision as to how to handle it is a very powerful tool in your mental arsenal. Once you’ve mastered it, people’s offensive words will no longer be able to bother you, and you’ll be able to take the bits that are reasonably critical and use them to grow as a human.

Next time you see someone spewing something that you don’t like, remember that it is their right. You can disempower them, and strengthen your own resolve, by not allowing it any quarter in your mind.

Sandboxing People

That sounds rough, doesn’t it?  It’s not quite what you think, is it?  Allow me to explain.

In computers, the term sandboxing means to take a program and run it in a protected environment where it can’t hurt or alter the rest of your system. It is commonly done by developers who are testing out beta software, or even system administrators who are concerned about an old, buggy, or malicious piece of code.

When you sandbox, or virtualize a program, as it is more often called, the system provides a pretend set of hardware on which the program runs. Instead of directly letting it access drives, video cards, or even the internet, it passes those commands through a filter. Sometimes it performs the desired actions, but other times it modifies these commands to make them safer or more compatible. The system can even lie to the sandboxed program and tell it that it has less memory than the physical system actually has.

To the sandboxed program, it thinks it is running on actual hardware, but in reality it is operating in a safe space that cannot harm anything else if it misbehaves. The program doesn’t need to be changed – it can simply carry on as is. Instead, the reaction of the system to its commands is altered.

Sandboxing seems like a sensible precaution in the IT world, but is it really an appropriate thing to do with people? It most certainly can be.

If someone is abusive or causes you harm, excluding them from your life is a good thing. But sometimes good people, people that are worth keeping in your life, can exhibit behaviors that might be challenging, difficult, or problematic for you to deal with, or that might cause problems in other relationships. By sandboxing them, you can maintain the relationship without it damaging other parts of your life.

Sandboxing a person can be done simply by putting them, and your interactions with them, in a separate mental space that is isolated from the rest of your mind. I do not mean keep their friendship a secret, but rather keeping it out of the sensitive areas of your life – areas that affect your happiness, livelihood, and even safety.

For an example of this, consider a person who frequently talks negatively about others. You can be certain that just as often as they are talking to you about someone else, they will talk to others about you. It is just how these people tend to operate. If you discuss you or other people in a negative light, that information will probably be passed around and eventually get back to you. These people are not councilors, they are dumpers. They live in the past and are stuck in a loop of relaying what happened to others.

To handle this person, I suggest never discussing other people with them, at least never in a negative light. Any information you provide them about yourself or your own circumstances must be carefully considered as it might be divulged. Don’t share anything you aren’t comfortable with everyone (and their proverbial brother) knowing about you.

In doing so, you will isolate yourself from the negative effects of being in a close relationship with this person, yet still reap the benefits of being in contact. The gifts that contact with others brings to us, and our understanding of the universe, are not always obvious. Keeping as many opportunities of communication and understanding open is a positive course of action.

I am not suggesting to be dishonest with people. While sandboxing does require some effort, and often a distinct lack of engagement at critical times, it should not require one to lie. If you are finding that keeping someone in a safe position in your life requires you to be dishonest, it is probably worth evaluating the communication you are engaging in with them, or perhaps not engaging with them at all.

Now this technique requires, in some cases, with some people, more trouble than it may be worth. And since I’m not a psychologist I can’t really say that this comes from professional or educational experience. But I have noticed that some people are worth keeping around. There is a genuine connection there. It seems silly to throw that out the window without some serious due consideration. And since every situation, and person, is unique, the technique of sandboxing someone may be a better course of action.

The All-Powerful Dreamer

Audio/video presentation of this article

Humans are powerful, creative beings. Individually, and collectively, we can do some amazing, and horrible things.  But at the core of our being is a boundless creativity that knows no limits.

Sometimes, the creative mind becomes bored or complacent and falls asleep. It dreams awful dreams – creating villains so powerful, so malicious that they seem unstoppable.

And then the dreamer awakens, remembering that they are that powerful, beautiful, creative being that creates his own reality. He summoned the very demons he was once afraid of.

After a long slumber, the human stirs, and is ready to change his world.

The Usefulness of Debate

Is debate a useful technique in hashing out issues, learning from one another, or exploring solutions? I used to think it was, but I am beginning to question that wisdom. I used to consider debating an enjoyable sport, but I have been lately seeing the futility of this tool of discourse.

In the debates I have observed and participated in, I have noticed that very little consensus is ever reached. Both sides seem more interested in defending their prized crown jewels – nuggets of wisdom that are, more often than not, entirely subjective appraisals of the world around them. I am including myself in this assessment. I am certainly guilty of playing defense and not listening to the other side.

One can see this in action by watching less than an hour of the US Senate or House debate a topic. Presenters come prepared with slideshows and placards that generally reduce an issue to its most primal elements. The pre-packaged assessments roll off the tongue, but generally hold little resounding emotional resonance.

If you want to see an even more vapid example, read the comments section of any major newspaper website – or a contentious Facebook post. You’ll see paid shills arguing with each other with perfectly crafted quips, insults, and retorts. When an amateur debater joins the discussion with a longer, less polarized reply, they are either ignored or shunned. The discussion is nearly instantly derailed into adolescent grandstanding.

And after hundreds of replies, the original message was lost. Someone called someone else a jerk, used a curse word, or insulted their manliness in some way. Another innocent bystander tries to interject their perceptions on the issue and are slaughtered by the master debaters. A Facebook thread gets deleted, or a newspaper editor decides that comments just aren’t worth the bandwidth they consume.

In the end, we’re left with little to no knowledge gained by any of the involved parties.

From now on, I am going to try to participate in discussions, not debates. I will listen better, defend less, and learn more. My increased openness to ideas will not result in blind acceptance of them, but rather to be considered as alternative points of view. I’ll treat them like a buffet – take what I want, leave the rest. When someone tries to preach dogma to me, stops listening to me, or rallies their defensive forces for an all out siege, I will move on to the next discussion.

Call it a late resolution for 2017.

The Carnival is In Town

Think about what happens to a TV show when it begins to struggle in the ratings. It tries new and drastic things, turning the plot and character development up on its end to be bold, innovative, and keep viewers tuning in to see what’s next.
It vaguely reminds me of our current political situation. When no one else can get the job done – a carnival barker is brought in to shake things up. It’s time to solve our problems. It’s only a matter of time before happy days are here again, right?
I suppose we’ll then see if the boost in ratings will work. Otherwise, like any soap opera, the story will devolve into the ridiculousness and soon be forgotten.