Barry SCHWARTZ (Barijo ŜVARC) (chemoelectric) wrote,

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For so many years I was hostile, because I feared that I was so hampered in my life by something that I ought to be able to snap out of, that it was really me being a malingerer or a bad student of life or something. I think it has just stayed about the same, though. My methods of adaptation to obsessions and social phobia have changed but there always is something. Once upon a time I adapted by avoiding doctors; later, after having worked many years so finally I would go to doctors, I adapted by going to a doctor for every pimple or hangnail. Then I started on Zoloft and things got much better -- I could wait before deciding a doctor was necessary; I could fiddle with my computer without terror that it will break; I could buy a new computer without fearing the expense would leave me starving in a gutter. But that was pills. The one thing on which I pride myself most, because I know it was done by stubborn practice rather than being a benefit of pills, was a drastic reduction in my hostility.

But it is hurtful to remember that hostility. I was consumed by it, when I was 17. I would spend hours and hours in my bed, rocking and weeping and simmering with rage. Into my 30s I remained hostile towards anything that challenged my view of the world, which was a view of the world as I wished it to be. For a time in my 30s I wanted to believe that I could 'teach' myself out of psychiatric illness, so I was hostile towards anyone suggesting a condition like mine was 'chemical'. I took out my hostility on NAMI, an advocacy group in which my father had once been an activist. But my beiefs were childish and ignorant, as I would later realize.

I encountered general semantics around that time. For several years I was a hostile person trying to bend this work, this synthesis called general semantics, into a tool for bludgeoning those who would threaten my fabricated world. So, I probably made a bad impression; and frankly this is pretty much where general semantics is at these days in the U.S. Either the self-styled general semanticists are hostile and psychiatrically troubled people like myself, or they are people who will not take power away from the people in the first group. I have always been a little different, though; maybe it is related to Huck Finn being the book that is me. I'm traveling on this river, not knowing what to expect, and then I see something potentially interesting and pursue it like a wolfpack, though never straying far from the river. And I do this again and again, never becoming as engrossed as a person who is deep into a vocation or avocation, and always returning to the mysterious river. I keep on doing this, and the years go on and on, and I have all these different things in my head, and in my head I make them fit together -- and sometimes the fit changes completely.

At some point I became a 'real' general semanticist, associated only with the European gs society, which had some standards. That's how things had come together. I think the most important turning point was when I finally purged myself of all spirituality, of any notion that there was 'anything' to a human other than a physico-electro-chemical process. The problem of 'free will' simply disappeared -- there was nothing there about which to talk. I could throw my Daniel Dennett books out the window, because 'free will' wasn't even worth writing a book. Even 'consciousness', Dennett's other pet topic, became less worthy of a book, mainly because I could see in myself that we are mostly 'unconscious' beings, with a very powerful but also extremely limited self-monitoring function; that function, roughly speaking, is our 'consciousness', and it is not really a problem, or rather it is a challenging scientific problem, not one of special 'philosophical' significance. And I could could see that learning was a physical-electro-chemical change in materials. I was reading scientific journals a lot, and the physical change in a 'learning' neuron had just recently been filmed. Once you really feel it in your bones that learning is a physical change, it helps you to learn, because you treat learning like healing from a wound; and so the process of learning sped up.

I became less hostile, because there is the objective world, and there is language about the objective world, and there is language about language, etc., and finally there is language about the inferred world as known to science, and to a greater degree than most people, thanks to my gs training and all the rest of the stuff I chased over the years, I am much better able to tell the difference. I am not so hostile at threats to my view of the world as I used to be, because my view of the world, in the form I state it, is only words, which may be mistaken. It is natural that other people's words will form a completely different 'world' from mine, because only at the very lowest levels, near to the objective levels, and in the very highest, scientific levels, is it reasonable to expect widespread agreement. And also I was able to relax because I no longer spent so much time 'rationalizing'. I could do things more and more things without 'thinking' about them in words at all. And if I were at loss for a word I could immediately point instead of struggle for more words, because my evaluations were now in the natural order.

Yet of course I remained sick in the head and all the above is relative to that. I'm probably one of the sanest looneytunes nutjobs in the world.

All this was prompted by memories of that hostility, which were stirred up tonight. I saw the same hostility elsewhere and wanted to make it go away, which of course I cannot do. Mainly for my sake I wanted it gone, because it was stirring up all this.

Also I have been under a lot of stress lately because of my study of Esperanto. Specifically what puts pressure on me is my participation in activities where a tutor rates and corrects my Esperanto. This is very useful tutoring and I seek it out, but this extensional orientation -- willingness to test myself objectively -- remains difficult for me. I have become afraid of reading my e-mail in case it brings me news of new corrections -- even though that's exactly what I want to receive. So I am under this stress and it is something I would sort of like to weep about, even though I am a having a really good time learning this easy language that isn't saddled with a national culture.

I'm not really sad right now, but bittersweet.

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