“Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame”

A 2015 TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky:

Appreciated listening to her perspective there. We really haven’t heard much at all out of her since the late ’90s, though people still do love to lob her name around for humorous effect. That “scandal” always bugged me, particularly in how Monica was vilified and yet Linda Tripp and Bill Clinton weren’t anywhere nearly as much, despite what all wrong they clearly did in the situation and them being older at the time. So a young intern formed a serious crush on an older, powerful man and engaged in sexual activities with him — so what? He’s the one who was married at the time and expected to act respectably in the office in which he’d been elected to serve. And Linda Tripp posed as a friend to Monica all while backstabbing her and then later making all those embarrassing recordings public. And for what? What did she really accomplish through all of that? Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached and wasn’t judged nearly as harshly in the aftermath of that storm, yet Monica’s reputation was ruined for well over a decade. And for what? Because she made naive, immature choices in her early 20s, as if the rest of us didn’t.

I agree with what she said about “upstanding,” which is basically standing up and showing compassion rather than passively behaving like an apathetic bystander. The internet is saturated with vitriol and cruel words — no question there. And that attitude problem has been bleeding over into society as a whole. It’s like television started it, then the internet exacerbated it, and now it’s flowing every which way today. How could that not have an incredible impact on the youngest people out here, especially when they wind up targeted and incessantly harassed? We’ve all seen it occurring online. Hard not to notice.

Politics can’t fix this, but I do agree that a rise in empathy could. And that appeals to us each on an individual level since that’s where it begins. We all get mad and feel scorned and want to lash out at times with our gossip. God knows I’m guilty of that too. But then you have to rein it in and remember to keep it in perspective and proportional. Shame is a hell of a social weapon. I know this personally in my own way, though Monica takes the cake in dealing with more ridicule and gossip than probably anybody should ever have to endure for years on end, especially for something that’s really not the world’s business. How she’s kept it together all this time is a testament to her character and her support network. Would’ve turned me into a complete basketcase going through what she did. We all said and did all sorts of crazy stuff during our time growing up. Reaching age 18 or 21 isn’t some magical line where suddenly we’re adults who had it all together. Not by a long shot. And emotions can be so strong when you’re younger and deeply infatuated.

I’ve embarrassed myself a million times over and likely will continue doing so pretty regularly since I’m slow to get my act together, even now in my 30s. But when you get locked in by a character assassination and treated as that and only that forevermore, it keeps a person from being able to grow and mature and learn from those experiences, as is the natural process. None of us were born having it all figured out, and those who pretend to are the ones I’d worry about the most since they’re deluded. Life’s a tangled web, especially nowadays, and it’s probably going to get more complicated from here on out. That worries me too, because it’s tough to muster the strength to continuously contend with this obstacle course known as modern living. Let alone to do so with dignity…that being an area I won’t pretend to know much about.

How can we not have empathy for people right about now, considering what all we’re up against? Interpersonal drama is hard enough to deal with, and I can only imagine how much more devastating it must be to have your dirty laundry publicly aired with your voice and photos and name attached to it, placed on permanent public record. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. And I think that’s why I do share as much as I do on here, in an attempt to desensitize myself to the scorn felt from others, because the alternative seems to be to hunker down and keep everything as private as possible at a time when privacy is being actively eroded all around. And because we’re just human beings out here living and learning, with no one of us having it all figured out. We like to judge others so as to deflect criticism from ourselves, but in reality we’re harboring our own sins and misdeeds. Who isn’t? I am and I can’t help but talk about it sometimes, probably partly because it does attract others who know what it feels like to be on one side of the situation or the other and can therefore meaningfully relate. Lets us see more clearly how human we really are when we honestly share back and forth with one another about our lives and choices.

But what we see happening today is a trend headed toward judgements cast anonymously and/or by those who conceal their own flaws and missteps and private failures. That’s a one-sided attack, not a bid for personal growth. That’s treating other people’s lives as little more than entertainment fodder — objectification in the rawest sense of the word. And that’s pretending and false righteousness. We all get indignant at times, but it’s a question of whether we can simmer down eventually and examine the broader picture, including our own mistakes and bad choices and wrongful treatment of others. Because I’ve never met a saint. And if one should exist, he or she wouldn’t behave self-righteously and scorn so many others with contempt. He or she would understand that all humans are fallible.

“Openness (Why it is Crucial to Be Open)”

Another good video by Teal on openness:

“You are restricted to the one perspective you call by your name.” Yes, exactly. And it’s something similar to her attitude expressed in that video that is fueling my own project in living out loud. Because why not? Only have one life to live (so far as we’re aware). Might as well explore it more fully.

Hurts me soul too

That was “Hurt Me Soul” by Lupe Fiasco, this being a song I stumbled across a little over a year back on Pandora Radio. Tonight it was chosen specifically due to its title.

Hurts me soul.

I hurt a bit lately. Changes. A couple current family-related concerns drudge up old memories and the blues. Drudges up some anger too. But whatcha gonna do? Can’t change the past. Just trying to keep managing the present as I go. Like my guy reminded me tonight, I do have most of what I ever wanted now, today. That being the love and company of my partner and support of close friends and Grandma, a non-corporate means of earning a living, keeping a roof over my head and food (and beer) in my belly, all the books I’ll ever have time to read, a reasonably well-behaved feline, a decent car, entertainment, freedom from participating in past lifestyle choices, etc. So why let the past poison the present? Well, that’s the tricky thing about our pasts…

It lives on in our minds, replaying bits and pieces triggered by whatever’s going on throughout each day. Smells, sights, similar circumstances, etc. The past doesn’t just fade away because we may will it to do so. And it never stops being a part of us. It’s what shaped and molded us, for better or worse — everything that occurred in the past and all the people we came into contact with interacted with the cores of our being and together helped chisel the art that is oneself.

Free will enters in to whatever extent, but is it not also influenced by the expectations of others? We certainly weren’t free to choose our families or the people we were tossed in with by them in our early years. And if you come up with any discipline you know you certainly weren’t free to interact in that environment and with those people as a free, autonomous agent. Resentments form and can simmer for years.

And then we hit adulthood and people expect you to flip a switch and turn off concern for all of that. Mine it for its good points and let the rest go. Spent much of my 20s trying to do just that. It was a worthwhile endeavor that taught me a lot about myself and others. Broadened my empathy for people I’d previously over-simplistically caricatured.

But I continue to struggle with the notion of forgiveness. It’s an Oprah-ballyhooed trendy idea. Forgive whoever who has wronged you so that you can feel better within yourself. You can release the anger and resentment and pain all on your own with no effort or apologies needed from the other parties. You can choose to not be controlled by your pain. You are responsible for your own feelings — no one else can make you feel anything. Those are the claims. Yeah, well, in case it needs to be said: it’s nearly all bullshit. It’s a guilt-inducing lie that tells the individual that they and their emotions can and do exist in a vacuum where they hold the reins and wield all of the power, independent of what others may do to us.

And it’s shit like that that makes me skeptical of the extremes people are willing to go to, in this case in the name of individualism. The notion of individualism taken so far as to expect us to behave as if completely atomized and capable of behaving with robot-like control over our minds and bodies is the talk of psychopaths, not ordinary people. Such cultural expectations would prove unsustainable due to the widespread psychological harm it would do. This damage arguably is going on already.

What a terrific performance by the Avett Brothers.

The tragedy of all that stated above is that more and more seem to be accepting Oprah and Co.’s logic, ignoring the reality that there remains a tension between each individual and all others they interact with, extending out to wider society and then to all of humanity. It’s a web, and it also stretches back in each one of our pasts to all interactions with others and our environments experienced before. Sounds abstract, but we intuitively understand this or at least behave as if we do.

People may want to argue that bringing in our connections with others is some sort of scapegoat in our attempt to deflect personal responsibility outside of ourselves, holding to the belief that we each possess ultimate power over our emotions and our lives and that those who can’t toe the line are just lazy and lacking in will power and therefore deserve to be miserable. But who do you figure they’re referring to in that last bit? Why, most of us, that’s who. Nearly anybody possessing a conscience and sentimentalities of the heart.

Some people want to talk nowadays as if everything ought to boil down to “logic” and “reason” and “rationality” and “proof” and “empirical evidence” and mathematics, but that’s only one half of life. If that’s the yin, where’s the yang? It’s in our heart-felt emotional lives, our connections with others, our families and clans of belonging, our impulses and creativity — so much of what makes life feel worth living. We are social beings first and foremost, which is to say that if logic gets in the way of that, we tend to stray from being too logical (always while convincing ourselves that we’re indeed very logical — when don’t we?).

I’d argue sticking with the “yin” described above and neglecting the “yang”-side of life will prove a serious detriment to humankind eventually, making it illogical in the end. It’s pandering to a life out of balance, and when scales are tipped too far one way they tend to ‘knee-jerk’ back in the opposite direction before settling out. It’s anyone’s guess how long it could take, this being a process that plays out on and on and on.

Individualism vs. collectivism is the great social paradox. It’s a tension that cannot be naturally resolved. Not that I see it as a problem necessarily needing some sort of permanent resolution. It’s just the way life is, and we experience it on many levels, from the political sphere on down to our interpersonal dynamics and the memories that spin off from that and follow us throughout our lives. We like to think we individually are so mighty as to not need help from others, but it is an illusion disproven from the moment of conception. No human is capable of being an island, not fully and completely. Adults who attempt it frequently wind up going mad with depression. We are social beings, first and foremost.

Our lives are woven in the fabric of this tension. We are products of paradoxes that we have little choice but to learn to live with. Because they belong to the designs of the natural world, the framework we are bound to exist within.

Brings to mind another funny paradox about living as slaves. Humans have enslaved one another for at least as far back as civilizations have existed and perhaps even before then. Slavery is probably what allowed civilizations to come into existence in the first place. Cheap expendable labor, freeing non-slaves up to tend to other matters, like sitting around theorizing. Slavery allowed the West to rapidly ascend, and it arguably formed the foundation for capitalism (though we don’t call it slavery anymore, preferring economic jargon that sounds more sophisticated and somehow less barbaric). Capitalism was special, though, in that it freed masters from responsibility for their slaves. No more needing to house or feed them, while still not being required to pay employees a living wage. It’s clearly evident this, at bottom, is a cost-cutting scheme dreamed up by masters-of-old.

But anyway, what’s funny is that slavery is what we humans are fighting to try to stay out of with one another, now taking the battle to the political arena, and yet without slavery ever having existed the world would look very different today. Most people would likely still be either farmers or hunters out of necessity, because people would have to pull their own weight as best as able. This means big, centralized civilizations would serve no function, and therefore wouldn’t have come into being. Rather than be slaves to other groups of people, all humans are left to contend with their dependence on nature, the ultimate slave master. People wishing to escape that reality wound up in no better position unless they belonged to the master class(es), oftentimes determined by technological advantage achieved off the backs of those previously conquered. And which is worse? In the end will we not wind up being forced to contend with nature as ultimate master anyhow?

Ah well. Strayed far off the original topic of guilt, resentment, family, and individual power to forgive and move on. How much power does one individual possess, and does that amount of power fluctuate throughout our adulthood? Can we always help weak or tormenting spells, and should we always try to stomp them out? Do they not potentially provide value as well in allowing us time to think and ponder and rehash and soul-search?

Which brings me to the thought that initially inspired me to blog this evening: I am a soul; I have a body. This came to me after reading the titles of a couple of videos by atheists disputing the idea of people possessing souls. They say there is no evidence that souls exist, and I can’t help but chuckle. None of us really understand what a soul is, and how can we? It’s understood intuitively as representing our essence, of which our body is the vehicle. How might someone convince a skeptic of this truth? Probably can’t, because it’s not of the realm of science, at least not at this juncture. I suppose it doesn’t matter much what others happen to think on this topic — at least not to me. It’s not even a subject we can wrap our feeble languages around, let alone hope to prove or disprove.

So I continue on in speaking and thinking as I do on that. And today I am aware of suffering within my spirit. It began with a memory popping in mind first thing this morning, and more reflections followed as the day wore on. It happens. Even if I could fully forgive everything, I can’t forget. Beyond that, I’m not convinced everyone deserves forgiveness, particularly those who never ask for it. Maybe on some level it becomes the right thing to do, just to release the situation and let it rest as what has already come before. But a desire to stay the hell away from certain people seems unavoidable as well as healthy in plenty of cases. And then there’s grief over what’s been lost or broken, that being a tough pill to swallow and simply accept. To say that we can and should simply exercise our power to repress and move on strikes me as shallow and non-introspective, and in people who aim to do this I’ve witnessed the pain popping up later in life and dismantling their present. So it seems to me something we can’t simply walk away from and ignore but rather must go through and out the other side of, however long that may take.

But what does one do if stuck? I guess that’s where will power must come into play. If I will not direct myself, others may try to use me to serve their own ends, or I may be abandoned by those who lose faith in the health of our connection, and I wind up a slave to circumstances then.

Harshly put, Firefall. Noted.

… All is easier said than done.

… Is it really coming down to picking our preferred form of slavery?

Just thinking out loud again.