The Books

With Marie Kondo’s show having finally reached peak popularity by hitting Netflix, it is now very popular amongst us millenials to strive to reduce our accumulation of things. I must admit that, living in a 1-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, I am not too keen on accumulating objects that I don’t know if I’ll ever use. There is, however, one exception to this tendency, and it’s books.

It’s extremely typical of people studying in literature and philosophy to accumulate books, but some of my colleagues do make it a point to get rid of books they don’t intend on reusing at the end of each semester. For me, given my varied interests in literature, I find it hard to get rid of a lot of them. I’ve also been accumulating books I’d like to read eventually here and there, and so I find myself with an entire shelf in my (not-so-big) bookcase dedicated to books I haven’t read yet. On that shelf lay numerous philosophy books, unread books I had to purchase for classes and seminars, books I’ve been gifted for my birthday and for Christmas, and books I’ve bought in used bookstores.

Of course, this leads to the feeling that I’m missing out on those books and wasting money on things I won’t ever read. Some of them have been in my possession for 3 years or more. However, this article by Kevin Dickinson recently made me reevaluate these feelings.

I find the concept of an antilibrary utterly fascinating. Paradoxically, accumulating books doesn’t seem to go against Marie Kondo’s advice to only keep things that “spark joy”, at least for me. The tsundoku is a periodical reminder of all the things I can still discover in the future, I may as well see it as a motivation to keep researching and reading more and more books. It’s also an attestation of the growth I have accomplished so far by studying in literature: I can now see how many things I don’t know as opposed to how many things I know. As per Socrates’ teachings, the ignorant ignoring their own ignorance is more ignorant than the ignorant who knows themselves to be ignorant. These books do indeed spark joy, because they are a prediction for the joy that is still to come by reading them. Each of these books has been chosen in a way, for I feel like they will benefit me intellectually.

Of course, nevertheless, books are heavy, and I know I will move again sometime in the next 2 years. Even if I stop feeling guilt about accumulating books when I have so many I have not read yet, that does not mean I will acquire any book that comes my way. As I just said, all of those currently in my possession have been chosen in a way or another. I knew enough about these books to decide they were worth reading, if I miraculously find myself with enough free time on my hands to make a dent in the pile. I’ve gotten rid of many childhood books that I can’t ever see myself reading again, because reading more books has refined my tastes in a way and these were just… not up to par anymore.

Another thing to think about: Goodreads and co. put a lot of emphasis on the number of books we read each year. I’ve consistently not been able to hit my book count goal because most of the books I read are over 500 pages. Does that mean I’m missing out on something? Probably not. After all, I’ll be able to say I’ve read books which a lot of people wish they could say they have read…

Maybe I should start making room in my other bookcase…

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The Hustle

I have been wondering why it is so hard for me to get into hobbies in general, and even more, get into hobbies without having them turn into “projects”. In this brilliant text, Molly Conway puts the finger on a key part of the problem. She explains that young adults often feel the pressure to monetize their creative hobbies.

I feel like the Internet greatly contributed to this tendency amongst people of my generation. Even more than just giving any of us the ability to showcase and potentially sell creations online, the Internet has given us an endless list of webstores to browse when we are looking for something personalized or too “out there” for normal stores to carry. Since the Internet allows to reach far more potential customers than brick and mortar stores, it has allowed niche markets to flourish, and so everything and anything can now be sold online. This creates the impression that any kind of product that one would make for themselves is marketable. We find webstores for knit blankets, tapestries, patchwork, embroidery, all those small crafting hobbies that used to mean a lot to us when friends or family would do them for us as gifts. Now we can just buy them online and they’ll look absolutely perfect. So why would ordinary people take the time to invest time and energy into such a hobby when they can just buy a piece online if they have the money for it?

In turn, whenever we see someone who does such things, would it be painting, sewing, crocheting, or any other creative hobby, if they are great at it, we tell ourselves they should start trying to make money from it.

The rebound effect from this tendency is that when we ourselves decide to take the time to try a new creative hobby, we get the impression that it should be Instagram-ready right away. Instead of appreciating the learning curve and experience we get from crafting, we feel the pressure to be perfect from the get-go, and since everyone nowadays has been exposed to people selling their flawless creations online, we feel like we can never compare with “professionals” who make a living out of making and selling such things.

It’s yet another way through which capitalism has taken something from our generation. Being strapped for cash constantly, we may effectively feel like it would be stupid not to profit from whatever we use our “free” time for. So we go on and try hobbies hoping that we can find one we are good at naturally, so we can profit from it right away and feel adequate in it. Meanwhile, it creates a commodification of those precious heirlooms from our families and friends and takes the sentiment out of it, or rather, it exploits the sentiment in it for profit.

It feels impossible not to fall prey to that trap in some way, at least for me. Writing is one outlet for me that I can’t realistically monetize on the Internet unless I invest an incredible amount of time in it, so maybe it’ll feel better for me than other creative hobbies I’ve had in the past. Time will tell.

The Balance

It feels good to be productive and achieve many things in a short period of time. It feels good to get to spend some time winding down and clearing one’s mind from the worries of the day.

When I was younger, the difficult part was learning to allow myself to get some time off and have hobbies. My obsession and fear of missing out drove me to an injury of sorts. Now I struggle to let myself have hobbies which are unproductive and don’t add more clutter to my mind. I keep getting angry at myself for spending too much time on social media and binge-watching TV shows every once in a while instead of finishing video games or doing personal readings. Maybe it’s still that fear of missing out that pushes me in that direction. But then, some of that frustration is warranted because of how easy it is for me to let social media take too much space. It ends up sucking energy out of me more than it helps restoring by making me anxious and on edge. Meanwhile, every time I see my gym bag I resent myself for not going to the gym regularly this season. I probably will not be running again until April, even if I feel the itch to go. It’s just taking too much time out of my schedule.

Having moved to a new city last fall, I decided I wanted to have a better social life this winter, so I tried pushing myself to go out more and plan things with friends. Objective has been met, now, but I am starting to feel overwhelmed by social interaction. I am not sure any of this even has a meaning.

It seems so difficult to just keep everything in check, enjoy myself, and still meet my academic objectives. I guess I’m one of those people who would study for a living if they could, but the weight of the machine nonetheless feels crushing at times.

Real life is easy to balance on paper, but hard in actuality. Maybe it’s the hallmark of the 21st century to wish there were more hours in a day and less hours needed in bed to recuperate. More hours in a day would, however, make for more time spent torturing myself with thoughts such as these.

The Apology

I was never taught how to apologize.

I mean, how to actually apologize. Growing up, owing someone an apology meant that I had done something wrong. But it was always framed to me to be more about making someone else feel better and less about a learning experience. My parents never taught me that giving a good apology meant identifying what wrong was done and promising to take steps to prevent it. That a real apology needed to be given by someone who learnt something, not someone who was ashamed of their behaviour and wanted it forgotten as soon as possible.

As a result, I only recently learnt how to give real apologies. There’s a form of humility that comes with recognizing that you did something wrong and vowing not to do it again by understanding why you did it in the first place. I used the word “humility”, not shame. Since I started living with my significant other, I have apologized a lot. More than my partner did, even. And I think it made us grow closer, because to apologize properly, I had to first be honest with myself and learn to overcome my self-judgement —that is, shaming myself for making a mistake, being imperfect—, so I could be honest with my partner and trust that he would not judge me. And that was one hell of a learning process.

Something that didn’t help me grow up in that department was “call-out culture” and how people are prone to demonize others as soon as they even put their toe on the wrong side of the line. By that, I don’t mean that calling out people and holding them accountable for bad actions is an issue. I mean that the lack of grey areas in the public opinion has for long fed my own lack of grey area for others, and for myself. It’s a problem I’m still trying to overcome, to this day, after years of therapy. The human mind likes boxes and hates the imprecision of spectrums. It’s reassuring, but only as long as you find yourself in the “right” box.

I recently realized how easy it is for me to disregard other people’s feelings and true intentions when they commit just one mistake that offends me. Sure, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions can lead to hurtful behaviours because they come from a place of ignorance. But by demonizing ignorance, we stun growth, because we shame people for being ignorant. We disregard how they feel, we get lost in our own pain and forget to be empathetic and compassionate towards one another. Hurting someone in return for how they have hurt you, especially if they did so out of ignorance, is bound to turn them away from you. That is a lesson I’m still trying to process amidst the anger and hurt I’ve felt towards my mother in the past for trying to manipulate me for my own good. I don’t have to forgive her yet. Especially since she hasn’t apologized yet. But I can at least express towards her the compassion I wish she and my father had shown me when I was little and did my own mistakes and hurt them. At least I can try.

The Belief

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to structure this post, but it seems hard to put my thoughts in any coherent structure since they are so embedded in my mind. Apologies in advance for the mess.

I’m not really a spiritual person. I’ve always regarded religion with skepticism, which admittedly is probably a product of the really secular culture I grew up in. I don’t really think there’s anything but oblivion beyond death. We are creature of flesh and bones, a bundle of neurones and some electric impulses for consciousness and a bunch of flaws to attest that if we were made by someone’s design, that person was not very skilled in intelligent life-making. As for the meaning of life, I tend to think that life has the meaning you give it. I find it pretty hard to believe that humanity is either inherently good or inherently bad, my inner sense leads me to think there is no “human nature” beyond our representations of it.

This is coming to mind because I saw my father last week and he told me that my mother has been having a rough time spiritually lately. My mother was always preoccupied by spiritual things. I have only a very vague idea of her beliefs, mostly because it is difficult to talk to her about spirituality and have it not turn into proselytizing. It is very paradoxal how she can be so sure of some things but so uncertain about others. That Owlturd comic is just one of so many that represents how modern society has mostly lost touch with spirituality, and that lost touch comes back to haunt us in the form of “existential dread”. I know my mother believes in angels, reincarnation and heaven, she believes in some form of God (but not the Christian one), and she thinks death means peace from suffering. Yeah. When she hits a low, she frequently talks about suicide. It’s very (not) fun to live with the perpetual fear that my father will call one day to announce that she killed herself.

This is coming to me through reading Blaise Pascal too. He too was big on proselytizing, but in a different way. He insists a lot on how reason leads us to form conflicting ideas and discount religion in the name of science. Pascal lived in a world where people were starting to differentiate between science/knowledge and lore/belief. One notable distinction that emerged during the 17th century was between astronomy and astrology. And because the human brain likes to take categorization to the extreme, religion ended up falling on the side of lore/belief over time, the side of the unfounded, the superstition.

While some people, like me, feel okay with not knowing the answer to existential questions or hypothesize that there is no good answer to these questions/that the answers are unknowable, I think some people feel at loss if they don’t have a firm spiritual ground from which they can grow. I do not think it is okay when “science people” mock those who believe or think that they are superior for being atheists. Apart from the very obvious judgemental statements against homosexuality or abortion (for example), I often wonder what harm atheists who ridicule believers think said believers are doing. I do not like to have the opinion that some people would think that someone spiritually-minded like my mother is foolish for holding such beliefs or is actively causing harm in the world.

What gives me grounding and a sense of belonging into the world, I have yet to figure out, but it would be unfair of me to judge those who found it in spirituality.

The Void

This feels weird to say, but over the years I’ve started so many blog and crafting projects… I only found myself able to keep with every project for a year, tops. It feels like none of them is really mine, like I’m trying to become someone I’m not, even if all of them spark from a genuine interest. I have hobbies, but it feels like none of them ever yields interesting content or none of them feel like they’re contributing to something.

This blog will most probably end up like all of those projects, but we’ll see. Here I intend on posting stuff about my personal life, mostly thoughts I need to get out of my mind so I can focus on what I have to do. I feel like I’m bugging everyone when I speak up about things that keep coming through my head. It’s like I have too many thoughts to keep them to myself. I don’t know how other people do it. When I don’t write them down, they become intrusive thoughts and end up spiralling out of control, they then turn into fantasies and I start feeling awful because I don’t feel like I have the skills or energy to make any of those fantasies come true.

Maybe this will be different since I’m not gonna try and make any of this content fit into a preconceived mold. It’s probably going to end up more like a thought dump than anything else, so sorry in advance if the lack of cohesion bothers you. In fact, I think part of the reason why I’ve let down so many projects is because all of them feel like they’re just one “facet” of me, and the other parts of me suffer because I have no outlet for them.

I could start a journal instead of writing a blog. Somehow, though, the digital media feels more appropriate. If someone relates to what I say, then it will have proven useful. And since I intend on keeping personal/identifying information to a bare minimum, I don’t really feel like there’s any downsides to using this as a “journal” of sorts.

So here I am, screaming thoughts into the WWW void as though they mean anything. Time will tell if something comes out of it or not.

The Monologue

This counts as a project, yes? Yes, I guess it really does.

Whenever I start something like this, I get the inner monologue rolling. And it doesn’t stop. I never know how to make it stop apart from writing down everything that comes to my mind.

This post, for example? I’ve probably been thinking about it since I made the previous one a little bit ago. Don’t ask me why. It seems like my way of thinking strives to systematize whatever I’m feeling into words and sentences that go on and on and on. My inner voice turns into that annoying little cousin that just won’t shut up.

I can only contain the monologue for so long before it starts overflowing and keeping me awake at night or distracting me from whatever I’m trying to read or do. For just this once I’ve decided that I’d be writing it down. It might work, it might not. It might end up like the hundreds of sketches that never get even close to a final outline, or like those abandoned crochet pieces, or like… I don’t know. Everything I’ve ever started and left off.

It’s as if I take more fun in the planning than the realization. Maybe because I’m afraid the end result won’t meet up to my expectations. It’s hard to see clear through the jumble of words that come out.

It feels a bit better to just let the words come to me and let them go by writing them here. It feels somewhere between “stream of consciousness” writing and mindfulness meditation. Will being aware of my thoughts reduce their grip on me?