Nazis and Meditation

If you were beamed back into the body of a young, Aryan man in 1930s Germany, and you could send yourself one message, what would that message be? Also, for fun, it’s not allowed to be place/time specific. It has to be a message that you could apply anywhere, any time.

Because, for whatever it’s worth, I think  you *should* apply this message to yourself – right here, right now. You think it was obvious to the Germans in 1930 they were starting down a path more fucked up than incest? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re not going to be on the oppressed side of the next holocaust. Well, maybe – can we ever really separate the oppressed from the oppressor? I suppose a bunch of dead Jews would say “yes,” but I still think it’s complicated.

Anyway, what was your message?

I struggled with this question for a while. Sure, there’s “don’t kill anyone,” but is murder really the only way we can oppress people? (Also, how does this square with my tax dollars funding drones? I may actually be fucking this one up, but I’m not even sure what steps I could take to stop paying taxes. Go to prison, maybe? Sorry Afghani babies, I’d rather you die than go to prison. Now we’ve established that, we can probably establish that if I were in the SS and knew I’d get shot for not killing Jews, I’d probably kill some Jews. But wait, back to Afghanistan, even if I *didn’t* pay my taxes, the government would still fund a similar number of drones – my money deficit would just come out of the education budget. I’m safe! Except, if I was in the SS and didn’t shoot the Jew in front of me, Hans would probably step in and do it for me. So, would I lose my life just so *I* wouldn’t be the one to kill that jewish child? She’s still going to die – why waste my life on a meaningless gesture? Oh my god, it’s so hard not to kill anyone.)

Anyway, I digress. I abandoned the “don’t kill anyone” option as too easy, despite the fact that I have not actually been able to achieve it, and tried to get a more generally applicable answer. To that end, I read Rudolph Höss’ autobiography trying to figure out what he did wrong, more generally than killing one million people.

The main answer I came away with was he ignored his inner feelings. Apparently, people asked him if he ever felt any remorse watching all those families walk into the gas chambers. He said of course he did, but he had to do his duty. He had to be hard, to steal himself against emotional weakness.

In fact, it was reading that book that convinced me that emotional expression was *not* a weakness. Since then any versions of the phrase “suck it up” have become abhorrent to me – borderline immoral. To ignore your inner sense, to do things you don’t like doing because other people think it’s a good idea, is usually a horrible idea.

Unfortunately, I’m also a programmer. I often don’t even *know* what my inner sense is telling, let alone have the strength to follow something as insubstantial as my feelings when pitted against societal institutions. Meditation has helped me somewhat – when my insides go quiet, I can more easily see what is underneath. But, it’s hard.

Doing the right thing is scary, often insane seeming. Even when I’m just disagreeing with someone, I often feel like a lunatic. For instance, all the liberal/conservative back and forth never addresses what I see as the underlying problem: one side never allows the other side enough dignity to change their opinion while saving face, so we can never achieve a reasonable answer. All opinions get more and more entrenched with continued arguing. Consequently, every single “YOU ARE SO WRONG” article someone posts on Facebook nearly always acts *against* its cause. But, I don’t even know how to *say* this without causing whoever I am talking to to double down into their established beliefs. So I usually say nothing, but I keep wondering – am I crazy? Are they? Why would *everyone* do this if it didn’t work? Do people care more about being right than actually convincing others of their point of view?

But, you know, the Holocaust. It happened.

Everyone is crazy. How can you not be? Only you know the answer to that.

The Pain of Praise

Sometimes people tell me I’m pretty. Often, I ask for it directly.

How do I look today?

You look fine.

Just fine?

You look great, gorgeous. Absolutely stunning, happy now?

Thank you, baby.

Sometimes, I ask for it indirectly.

God, I feel so fat lately.

You’re not fat.

Ugh, I just like – feel it. I mean, maybe it’s not even true, I just can’t shake it.

You look great! It’s absolutely ridiculous that you’d think you’re fat.

Thanks! You always know the right things to say.

Sometimes I don’t ask for it, and people will tell me unprompted.

Oh hey, new haircut? It looks good.

Oh, yeah! Thanks!

And, sometimes complete strangers will stop me on the street and tell me I look good. Some phrasings are more crude than others, but some people do seem genuinely interested in paying me a compliment. They will stop, look me in the eye, and say “Wow, has anyone ever told you you’re really pretty?”

I smile and say thank you, when the reality is people tell me I’m pretty all the time. Because, one way or another, I *ask* them to tell me I’m pretty all the time.

Thing is, I think this is highly counterproductive for my current personal goals. Every time someone tells me I’m pretty, I don’t leave reassured about my appearance. I leave with the reinforced belief that my appearance matters, which triggers a deeper fear I have. “How long will I be pretty for? How long will this last?” I may start asking my friends to say “Looks don’t matter,” every time I ask them for a compliment.

This doesn’t just apply to appearance, however. Many forms of praise I find counterproductive. For instance, I started this blog intending to write directly what was in my heart and not worry about what other people thought. I showed some of my writing to some of my friends, and some of them really liked it, and now every time I sit down I think “what I’m about to write isn’t going to be very good.”

But, it doesn’t matter if my writing is good. That’s not the point.

Praise feeds the watcher. “You’re doing a good job, keep it up!” she says to me every time I get praise, which feels a lot more enjoyable than when the watcher is critical. “How could you have made that mistake? You are so stupid!” Yet, it is part of the same dichotomy – praise and insult, bring me into a mindset where I am not *doing*, I am watching myself doing. I don’t want to be a writer, I just want to write. I don’t want to be pretty, or ugly – I want to be.

I can’t isolate myself from the praise other people give me. I can ask my friends to tone it down, but I will never be able to escape it. People think they are being kind, they are trying to connect with me. I will need to learn to hear these complements without feeding off them, and I’m not quite sure how to do that. Partly, it is to see that it’s not really about me – it’s about them. When people tell me I’m pretty, they’re not usually describing what they see. They are really saying, “I want you to be happy right now, I am trying to make you happy.” Which raises a bunch of questions, why do they want me to be happy? Why did they pick that particular complement? What is going on for them? I think that will help.

But, I also think I just need to learn to not attach to the words.

“You are pretty.”

I am not pretty. I am indescribable, I am beyond words. I am not even “I”- and neither are you.


I got a call from a friend’s boyfriend this morning, telling me my friend was having an episode, of the brain variety, and could I come help him talk to her and convince her to go to the hospital? I had never met the boyfriend before. I get the impression he may have been calling random numbers in her phone.

I said I’d be happy to go talk to her, but I wasn’t sure what would come of it. He said he’d call me back in half an hour, and now an hour has past.

I’m nervous. I’m not quite sure what to do. I found myself looking things up on the internet, looking for some sort of external advice that I could take with me like some sort of magic elixir I could dump on her head to make the situation magically better. But, I’m not even sure how accurate his version of the events even are.

One thing I find it hard to do for an extended period of time is just sit with it. I can do it for ten minutes or so, but after a while I become agitated and desperately want to look up something – anything! – to help me deal with it. I find this type of nervous energy very difficult to sit with – my heart rate speeds up, and all I want to do is move, or think, or mentally churn. And, on some level I know it won’t help, but it’s the habit I’ve always fallen into.

Another part of me is thinking, deep down, “ugh, why me?” In a way, it’s good me. If he was calling random people, he could have called a coworker, or a boss, or someone from whom this information would be best kept private. She may be embarrassed to have this revealed to me, but it’s not part of my philosophy to think less of people when they experience mental turmoil, and I’m not in any way connected to her professional life. But, the selfish part of me is hoping this whole thing blows over by the time I call him back.

Which is now – I’m scared!