i know i’m insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but i need to believe i’m talented (aka special) in some way to motivate myself to try.
why (is this a problem)?
1. the odds are stacked against me due to my:
i. non-traditional (read: non-straightcisrichwhitemale) life trajectory
ii. race/gender/class/sexual orientation/disability
and i’m not a normal* so i lack the capacity to easily delude myself into believing that i can bend the world to my will.
1a. i was watching Neil Gaiman deliver a commencement address & i wanted to apply some of it but i kept being reminded that my positionality will make a lot of his advice moot.
1b. reality is basically an illusion. human vision is all weird hacks. so technically i never see anything as it really is.
1c. & maybe i could shift my reality so i’m living in a world where i can do anything. i can act as if all this shit is available to me.
but what happens when my reality collides with consensus reality? how do i overcome that? & what does that do to my reality?
[it changes in some way; forces an identity reformulation.]
(then wouldn’t i be constantly having to confront the fragility of my own reality? what’s to prevent me from lashing out when my status is threatened? [see: whites in USA today])
1d. so much of advice for artists/writers/entrepreneurs/etc is based on a normative white model.
2. when i allow myself to feel even a teensy bit special, or to have any desire for success, i run up against individuality vs. collectivity.
2a. i’m pretty convinced Western individualistic culture is fucking up the world & i identify a desire for individual achievement as rooted in this culture.
i feel like the idea that you have to: “make something” of yourself, or have a meaningful impact on the world (even if that impact is positive or centered on helping others), or leave a “mark”
is a facet of individualism
2b. when i get excited about writing this novel because i might get it published, or when i dream about having conversations with people i admire on podcasts, i identify it as a function of being raised in an individualistic culture
& thus it’s a problem
& so i beat myself up for wanting those things
3. then i decide my motivation for writing will be changing the world for the better, in collaboration with other artists writers activists etc. my contribution will be cultural, i tell myself. i’ll be working to shift the dialogue through my art, nothing more. no pressure. i’m one of many.
(it’s not about being famous or successful. it’s about making the world a better place, eliminating oppression, blah blah)
3a. but to do that i still have to be a singular person out here trying to market my writing. i have to believe my shit is just a bit better than the average writer because i’m asking you to spend your few coins on it in this time of scarcity/uncertainty. i at least have to believe it’s as good as the average writer.
3b. what if it isn’t good? (it definitely isn’t) then i’m just some shill out here duping unsuspecting people out of their hard-earned money, constantly looking over my shoulder.
3c. what if it is good, but i can’t get anyone to read it because i don’t have the energy/confidence/money/followers/x to get anyone’s attention?
3d. and even though i’m doing this to help better the world, and i’m not doing it alone, isn’t the belief that i can have an impact at all still individualistic at its core?
3e. um, what if i get financially secure/rich/famous and i sell out?
(don’t worry fam, you’re never going to be financially secure)
3f. …say you live the good life, you stay true to your principles, you make art, you publish it
choose your outcome:
maybe your words touch the hearts of billions and spark some kind of cultural shift
maybe your words touch the hearts of a few hundred, a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand. you lay a foundation, but nothing changes in your lifetime. so isn’t that still succumbing to individualism in the end?
maybe you sell a bunch of books but still struggle to make ends meet, and end up dying young from oppression and depression and stress
4. anyway, in 3 billion years the universe will die & no one will ever remember any of this happened. so why bother with it? why not just end it now?
4a. you have agency, you have choice.
you don’t think suicide is a sin
you know the world will not be losing some irreplaceable voice if yours is silenced
you know you are insignificant in context
you know death is only the companion to life, that it comes to us all, & is nothing to fear
you are in physical and mental pain
(so why not just die?)
4b. your people love you. your people would be emotionally devastated if you die. maybe it’s not the world, but they’re your world. don’t destroy them
4c. everything is suffering. maybe death is no more peaceful than life, just different. what if you are who you are even in death? what if you spend eternity ruminating over how pointless incorporeal existence is given the impending heat death of the universe?
4d. inertia is always less effort than changing course.
you know where these rapids lead. you know once you go over the falls you’ll get to spend some time in tranquil waters. let yourself go over. cry.
4e. maybe, eventually, it will get better.
4f. and if it doesn’t, don’t worry, you’ll probably die young —
* “Perhaps the clearest evidence for the benefits of illusions comes from the study of depressive cognitions. Independent work by several investigators has shown that relative to depressives, normals … are more prone to an illusion of control—that is, the perception that they can control objectively uncontrollable outcomes…” SE Taylor, Adjustment to threatening events: A theory of cognitive adaptation, American Psychologist (November 1983)