In the long run we are all dead
John Maynard Keynes
I am rarely satisfied doing something just for the sake of the thing. It has to fit into a greater scheme of things, a grand narrative of progress and rightness, otherwise it is absolutely wrong for me to do it. In the search of this great scheme of things, I tried to learn as much about the world as I could. Twitter might call it sensemaking - a particularly nerdy and mildly aspie community of people trying to understand simple human behaviors like lying. This is the top-down approach to living. You take the 1000-lightyear view. You try to see the movements of all the things everywhere in our neighborhood of space and then zoom in slowly to make sense of things until you finally regard yourself the human as a thing to be observed from outside.
In stark contrast to this lies the approach of everyone who frustrates me and makes me jealous and who I naturally long to be more like: starting with what you want. Today. Right now. This very moment. You want a Cubanos sandwich? Get it. Don’t first educate yourself on how pulled pork came to be or the origin of modern Latin American identity, there simply isn’t time for that. Anyway, I had way too much wine at my cousin’s place - he happens to have a very generous set of acquaintances who gift him reserve selection bottles. I stopped drinking the bottle we opened because he was clearly feeling sleepy and wouldn’t let his inherent politeness kick me out. My stomach is also fairly full, so I couldn’t possibly have another glass.
There’s something about the state of other-mindness that alcohol invokes that feels unfair. It’s a dull, achey sort of reminder that there are easy ways to wake all sorts of strange things within yourself that are normally kept exiled. Alcohol is to psychonauts what astrology is to astronomers: a rude reminder that the real thing is just so freaking good, but sometimes you make do with what’s at hand.
The famous and phenomenal singer SP Balasubrahmanyam passed away recently. I’ve been playing his rendition of Prema on loop for a while this weekend (as well as the intro to Keeravani which is just metal af). At the beginning of the video for Prema, the host introduces him and the song:
In love there is not just beauty, but despair as well. To strike both these tones, who better than the virtuoso SP Balasubrahmanyam?
From his Wiki article:
He sang over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages
That is just such an…awesome number isn’t it? Seeing it, I just can’t imagine how his 1:1 with his manager went. “Yeah, I hit 2500 songs this year but…I just feel empty. I think I need 37500 before I feel done.” I bet he much rather just focused on how much he loved his craft the 40k count is a symptom of where he was with his craft. I cannot imagine how he stopped himself from reinforcing his mistakes - was someone watching over him? Could he simply listen to his own music over and over until he could see himself from outside and correct his mistake like a teacher would?
My cousin is a professor at INSEAD and in his home life, used to be quite a singer as well. He has since lost his fascination with music. I asked him about it: “Just kinda got bored of it.”
I am often bored. Bored of food, bored of the ablutions and upkeep required of a human body, bored of myself, bored of my obsessions, my (nuanced!) loneliness, my desire to see things in the world as better than they are. I can sit back and see myself very clearly, brutally. I am a particularly petty, mercurial person with powerful passions. I am prone to obsession and drawn to a form of carceral self-relation that leaves me constantly hungry to be my real self. My self-effacing upbringing however punishes me for being my real self, and so I am somewhat like Tantalus - so close to the thing that will slake my thirst and ambition but never tasting it. I get to have some Reserve Cask wine, though so ehhhh, life is not so bad.
I made a few mistakes when I was young - I devalued the body. I thought of it as merely a flesh vessel for an immortal being (whose name - if you heard it - would make you lose your mind). I took far too long to quit things that weren’t working for me. I stayed at Google for nearly 9 years. I knew it wasn’t the place for me around the 4-year mark but there were financial goals to hit and promises I made to myself. Similar feelings about KD but I did end that around the 4-year mark. Ish. Since I’m not sober and we’re getting close, dear reader, I can tell you that there’s a layer of me, not too far below the surface that still loves and maybe even reveres KD. Or at least the KD of 2012/2013.
Also possible that I revere myself from that era. Things were clear. Progression was forward. More money = better life. More promotion good. Life was simple. Until it wasn’t and now there’s all these tradeoffs I had to make. I chose to minimize regret earlier on in my life, living off of the borrowed wisdom of others until I lost patience with it. Why should I have to be so patient?
Am I making the same mistake again?
I haven’t been drunk that much this year. A few of those times were decidedly bad for other people and well, if my therapist is to be believed, very good for me. “I like you angry!” Yeah, well Annelaure, I’m rarely angry at you, right? If there was one mistake I repeatedly made, I’d say it’s trying to teleport.
It’s incredibly easy for me to picture the right, moral course of action. After all, I spend my days deciding what to do based on whether my moral processing allows for it. Oat Milk or Cow’s Milk? Yogurt should be minimized. Etc. Etc. I have built a unique set of skills around doing the right thing and sometimes it is very easy to do. Pick one carton instead of another. Sometimes the right thing is very far from where my body is. My body is in an angry, frustrated or sad zone, but the right thing to do is to support this other person - we know that from the 1000-lightyear calculation. We know it from the borrowed wisdom and regrets of selfish people. And so I teleport myself, create a composure and body presence which is not reflective of my true state of being. I did this over and over again in my youth, until I had drowned the voices of my body and could no longer hear when they called out for help.
Today, I’m not making many mistakes. I don’t feel like I’ve been teleporting and so I don’t pay some nasty cost for being yanked back into my body. Today, I didn’t make the same mistake. That’ll have to be good enough for now.