What I Did
I made an essay today on the Five Solas for TheoLogos.
Notion has been a good system. It reminds me of the times nearly a decade ago when I found Evernote and Todoist, and that moment a few years ago when TreeSheets became the best mindmap/list app I’ve ever used.
I’ve rearranged my essays and ideas a few times over, now.
The last time, I communicated broadly and vaguely about the effects of my stress, and my hope is that this time around it may help to serve someone else well. Details in the next section.
What I Learned
As a product of what is likely-but-not-provably my autism, I have had a central pattern across my life of fixating on One Thing. That One Thing moves around:
- I was obsessed for about 6 months with the utter futility of all things. Dove into Nietzsche and Hume to escape it, and found very little consolation outside of the realities I found within religion.
- For 2 years of my life, I manically wrote out a set of step-by-step guides as an attempt to finally become “normal”.
- 5 months of my existence was devoted to plainly answering what reality is comprised of.
Then, almost exactly 11 months ago, all of that fell apart. My family and I went through a catastrophic turn of events that I’m still afraid to publicly express out of fear of the worst nature of humanity showing itself by judging without any understanding of the situation.
This trauma ripped me apart, and the sequence of events gave me some contrasting axioms to my previously straightforward worldview:
- All laws are attempts to create boundaries, but failings in enforcing those boundaries make law enforcement needlessly cruel and biased against anyone they do apprehend.
- Nobody is trustworthy until you know the purpose you’re striving for, and most people judge based on what they think they see.
- Evil exists as a vacuum of goodness, not a contrast. Anything that dehumanizes people, therefore, leads to evil.
As a result, the series of events that came from the one event 11 months ago has built a Scarlet Letter that places a terrifying wall around many opportunities I would have otherwise pursued. I’ve lived my entire life up until now taking more responsibility than necessary for my situation, and being a victim of a cascade of events outside of my control has made me realize that no redemption or change of the victim of a prejudice can offset what a prejudiced person wishes to believe.
This wall has broken my phenomenology into a type of early mid-life crisis. My quest to find answers through cycling my One Thing was breaking apart. The splintering of this One Thing into Many Things was in no small part due to the reality that no amount of technical understanding of computers, no acumen or eloquence of expertise, no capacity to hack together any variety of improvised solutions could offset a bureaucratic system designed to winnow individuals from a distance based on an arbitrary set of
prejudged predefined standards. I will likely never work for another large company or co-employed mid-size company again, as far as the changing fashions have aligned themselves.
Of course, the realization that led to the destruction of my Self-Concept wasn’t this element alone. I still maintained the delusion up until that day that my writing would someday create a Big Thing. This would cascade into Big Events, and I’d be able to make a Huge Difference in others’ lives, as if I could become the next Tony Robbins or Bill Gates.
This kind of preposterous reasoning is a product of anyone who is born talented and knows it, and is often fueled by a false belief that the world not giving the credit due to them is a grievous error that must be corrected. I still had it, even though I was aware enough to understand that people only value talent according to how it’s implemented (e.g., throwing skills matter when you can throw a baseball across a plate), and even then it’s most of the time not as relevant as the quality of person you are behind the talent and who you happen to know.
Or, to paraphrase the concept, I had been led to believe that success came from 3 factors:
- Your aptitude at [thing]
- Your character, moral integrity, perseverance, etc.
- Who you know
But, I never realized the extent and force of how much each one mattered. With respect to everything possible, 1 or 2 may or may not apply, while 3 almost certainly does. Further, it’s not “who you know” as much as “how others know you”!
In short, I was a geek trying to outsmart the system baked into millennia of human behavior, all because modern technology exists to permit antisocial behavior. Even with a significant chunk of people only interacting through a choppy video screen post-COVID, the human element of interaction is more prominent than ever before, and in some ways magnified as the trend pendulum swings back and managers discover that they suck too much at their job to manage via email.
One of the final nails in this self-debasement came in the form of the Jordan Peterson personality class I’ve been taking recently, which has become my latest One Thing to the best I can muster. To quickly distill, there are 5 dimensions of what our “soul” prefers when it comes to motivations:
- Agreeableness – how much we want to end conflicts
- Openness to experience – how much we want new things
- Extraversion – how positive we feel about everything
- Conscientiousness – how much we follow rules and do what we must
- Neuroticism – how emotionally sensitive we are
In the ruminations around personality, I’ve realized that society imposes a very specific standard on people:
- Agreeableness – always be agreeable
- Openness to experience – always be open to what the group is changing toward, but never against it or in a way that challenges the group’s authority
- Extraversion – be as extraverted or introverted as the task you’re told to do is indicating
- Conscientiousness – be completely conscientious, no breaks or grace
- Neuroticism – never have sensitive feelings
I’m sure this dysfunction expresses in other cultures differently, but they all have some overlap that advocates honoring the leaders more than the self.
I’ve now realized that honoring the above creates a False Self. It is an expected set of standards imposed from before we were able to speak that defines who we are expected to be.
Further, by cross-referencing the idea with Erwing Goffman’s masks theory, it’s possible that the True Self is impossible to find in any articulated way. After all, we are nothing but responders to our environment. Try expressing absolutely anything without the language that you borrowed from others, then try to perceive without using the source material as a reference point (and throw out source-material-based memories while you’re at it).
Thus, we are all constructed to be nothing more than the deciders of the environment we occupy. Even then, the luck of who we know constrains whether those consequences actually matter.
At this point, I’d get an encouraging affirmation from one of my Christian friends: “But living for God is what creates meaning!” I don’t know about that anymore, since I don’t know what that specifically looks like.
I mean, sure, there’s the things that happen in the Bible. But it’s not exactly translated to how the Christian church operates. I’m not “fully of the Holy Jargon” to get ahead in the circles that care about that, and my beliefs about God in most others are either borderline heresy or downright disquieting.
A year ago, I would have been determined to lead this sort of thing with all the zeal and inexperience of youth: build a ministry, build a church, build an app, make seminars, think and grow rich. But, trauma grows us, sometimes too fast.
I’m still hunting for my True Self. I’ve always been so self-assured that I never thought I was deceived about my own essence, but apparently that’s what being on the autism spectrum means: you don’t know who you are, even when you think you do and can achieve a ton without realizing it.
I can only rest in the fact that I’m happier than I’ve been in my life. I’m only about 20-60% as productive as I used to be, but I won’t feel anymore like my premature death from a bad case of strep throat or a sudden case of car to my face is a regret that I didn’t “finish that One Thing”.
“So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.” Ecc 3:22
What I’m Doing
I’m looking for work, but having a general existential crisis of meaning from being unemployed for months. When I have energy, I devote my efforts to the following:
- Working through a writing project of ~7,500 articles, e-books, video tutorials, and guides about the entire domain of the tech industry.
- My wife and I raise two small people with a nurturing home, at least until they’re legally allowed to vote.