Late July journaling

Have had so much on my mind lately, most of which won’t be shared on here. In fact, this blog project will be reassessed and edited/trimmed. Queen of TMI has finally tired of letting so much hang out so publicly.

In a month I officially join the ranks of “middle age.” Meaning the second half of life begins at 35, assuming one lives to be about 70. As a smoker I’d say that’s a generous estimate. The thought doesn’t trouble me, though I’ve noticed how much it troubles my peers in the same age group. Like they can’t stand the idea that the first half of life has already gone by, probably because that induces anxiousness over how to navigate in the second half in an improved manner. And pressure to finally get our shit together. But the term “middle-aged” really bothers people, nevertheless. Bothers me a little bit, not the term so much as the reality of aging and recognizing that what once worked for me no longer does so. And spinning wheels come to feel pointless and futile.

Ambitions…so much can be said there. But some of us don’t want for much. Mostly we just want to explore this life and love our loved ones and dabble in our creativity. Others want a lot more than that, and so be it. Either way, it simply is whatever it is.

I don’t know what to think most days. Almost better off when I aim to not think so much. Because every day I figure out more and more how little in this life I really have control over and how the script in my head, generated by societal trends and conventions and whatever else, has little bearing on what’s actually real. Nearly everything I ever thought I knew has turned out to be wrong or incomplete or, at best, extremely naive. And that’s probably true for all of us if we’re honest with ourselves. Life isn’t linear, not the way we like to think it is, and people aren’t rational in the ways we like to pretend they should be either. And that’s okay. It can be no other way.

The more I lose myself down in this rabbit-hole I’ve plunged into, the more I lose who I once was and dreamt of becoming. And that’s okay too. Maybe life has it’s own agenda that I need to learn to flow with rather than contest. Maybe everything does happen for a reason — or, perhaps more accurately, maybe we assign reason and meaning to everything, that just being the way we are as humans. Unavoidable. The past, the present, pains and sorrows and losses, pleasures and accomplishments, embarrassments, etc., all proving necessary in shaping us into what we now are. Right or wrong. And maybe “right” and “wrong” are arbitrary judgments more often than not as well.

At some point words begin to break down and create more confusion than they can hope to clear up. Funny thing about this mode of communication. Hence the ongoing relevance and importance of artistic expression, seeing as how analyzing and dissecting can only take a person so far when it comes to really understanding anything. That’s what life’s teaching me at present. So I’ve been quieter lately, at least online. Taking time to pause and reflect and ponder the possibilities while reading and going about the daily routine.

It’s amazing the difference 5 years can make to a person’s psyche and outlook on life. I’m not the same person anymore and never will be again. And that’s fine.

Some like to say the only cure for loneliness is solitude, mind-bending as that is to comprehend. But I don’t doubt they’re correct in the sense that it comes down to making peace with oneself. Because I can feel lonely in a crowd. Even a revolving door of attention received doesn’t satiate this feeling inside. Apparently cannot. Yet that’s always what I pulled toward: more attention, more interaction, less alone time, more distractions. And where has it wound me up? To realizing that that strategy will not work. It’s just another illusory hunt that returns to a feeling of emptiness each time. I understand this better now than I ever have before.

This is a strange time…not bad or good, just odd and interesting. Every day I am torn between embracing its lessons and challenges and trying to escape them, and each day is pretty much torn in half as a result, per my norm for quite a long time now. Some things are very slow to change. But this isn’t a race, despite the clock ticking on and on. That pressure to figure out how to measure up in whatever which ways can be destructive all unto itself at times. Sometimes it’s better to return to simplicity, to simple roles and routines and activities that give one time to just be.

Us and our first-world problems…  So much strife we create for our own selves. Such is the human condition.

And now it’s time for work.

A whole lot has changed since the 1900s…

While I understand the desire to maximize our experience of freedom to the greatest extent possible, we run into a number of problems in a society this heavily populated and technologically-sophisticated. I’ve said it a bunch and will say it again — a substantial difference in most-modern life compared against how people lived a mere century or two ago is that nowadays there are a WHOLE LOT more of us crammed in urban areas and we do not know (are incapable of knowing) most others who surround us in these shared living spaces. We’ve long-since left the times when people lived in relatively small communities where they were at least roughly acquainted with everybody therein (even if only through family reputation), and it doesn’t look like we’ll be returning to such ways of life anytime soon. In short, a major aspect of most-modern-day life is living among/around and interacting with countless strangers.

The reason this matters and is a massive game-changer is obviously compounded by various cultural inputs, meaning we’re not even living among people who necessarily identify with the culture(s) we do. And that seriously complicates shit, because with culture comes values. In the U.S., we have numerous subcultures that vary widely in the ways people communicate, what religion they’re likely to embrace or at least be exposed to, differences in attitudes on things like corporal punishment and what constitutes reasonable self-defense/reactions to disrespect, etc. We have people in this country from all around the globe, some of whom have lived here for generations, others who haven’t been here long at all. And we’re saturated with an untold number of ideologies varying according to which faction(s) one wishes to associate with.

A sea of diverse strangers, more or less depending on one’s particular locale.

And yet some still seem to be laboring under the fantasy that the vast majority of us see things in some similar sort of fashion, at least so much that we’d like to think most of these other strangers out here share similar values and will act accordingly. That appears to be a false assumption.

Kinda like the difference between, on one hand, the man who learns the system so as to play within it in a bid to succeed, and, on the other hand, the man who learns the system so as to game it, even if that winds up doing harm to others in the process. See, the truth is that there are a number of people out here who simply don’t care about you or what you’re trying to do or what you value most. This shouldn’t be a secret, considering we all know of some of these types who are hell-bent on doing whatever they want regardless of the social cost to others. We hear about it on the news and from our friends and family members who’ve been impacted and/or we experience this issue directly ourselves.

Once again, we’re not all on the same team. And in keeping that in mind, how much trust should we reasonably extend to others? I don’t believe there is a magic, universally-applicable answer here. Rather, we’re prompted to treat others with scrutiny until we have good reason to do otherwise. That is, until trust is established.

But how does one go about establishing trust when most people we’re surrounded by will remain strangers to us?

Well, we obviously can’t establish trust with most folks. Just not possible. And we’re never really certain which stranger out of the bunch will pose a problem for us. Hence why we have laws in place in an attempt to curb unwanted behaviors through the threat of possible legal action. And yes, due to the complexity of the society we live within and residents of each state having some say on local conditions and laws, we’ve constructed a complicated legal nightmare to traverse in this country.

But some of these laws are quite useful. For example, statutory limits placed on youths’ ability to consent to sex with grown adults. Considering parents can’t be around at all times throughout their children’s upbringing (we not living in old agrarian times anymore), they are unable to play the role of overseer where as historically parents arguably had a great deal more control in that arena. So we created laws to try to deter adults from sexually messing with youths, and as to be expected, some of those laws have been misused and abused over time. I sincerely wish we could get around that, and perhaps people of tomorrow will figure out better ways of doing so. But as it stands today, there’s a need for protection over the most vulnerable persons in our society from those who could potentially present the most harm by attempting to use youths for their own sexual desires. If parents could take such people out back and string them up from a tree, undoubtedly more than a few would try that. But we’re expected to remain civilized and to let the governing bodies sort out and punish such offenses.

We can’t simply trust random people to do right by us, let alone to do right by young people who tend to be too trusting for their own good. We know this. This is not a secret. And yet some play with the idea and come up with thinking that such laws should be removed because they’re illogical and arbitrarily determined. Many laws involve rather arbitrarily decided lines drawn in the sand, from the age to begin collecting social security payments to the legal drinking age out at bars to when you’re legally allowed to apply for a driver’s license. If we were to make an argument about the arbitrariness of age requirements in legal codes, we’d have to swipe countless laws from the books and reinvent whole new ways of determining appropriate points in development for whatever is in question. And what I’ve heard advocated was that individuals being assessed on a case-by-case basis would be fairer. Perhaps that’s true that it might be fairer for each individual, but in a society this heavily populated that just isn’t feasible.

It’s obviously not my love for Big Government or a desire to feel like I’m little more than a number that propels my thinking here, seeing as how I’ve raged against both concerns plenty enough on here. But I also am forced to be realistic with where we stand today. Times have radically changed in a few short decades and we’re embarking in a new direction, whether we individually like it or not. There will be restrictions and lines drawn in the sand all over the place. The best we can likely do is try to sway where the lines are drawn, but to eliminate them entirely? Good luck with that.

And that’s why I’m not too concerned with Justicar’s arguments, other than worrying about his expressed views pandering to those who do wish to take advantage of youths, as if we need anymore of those types cropping up and acting out. All societies draw lines in the sand, and that’s essentially what a legal system is. Our moral concerns may vary over time and laws are updated in response to that, and sometimes those laws go too far and wind up criminalizing some of the people they were intended to initially protect. That’s not good, and we should call those cases out. But I also don’t think it’s wise to throw the baby out with the bathwater by assuming that since a law can be misapplied that it therefore must have no value at all. That does not appear to be the case when we look at age of consent laws overall.

But I’m tired of that fool and have devoted enough attention to his mind games for one day.