The Psyche (from Philosophical Asides)

I struggled a bit this past week, and I had to write about it. Maybe you’ll connect.



The Psyche

The suffering that exists for people is no doubt very real. We don’t really know why a person feels pain, at least ontologically, or why someone has to suffer, at least philosophically. Maybe we can analyze the reasons, and come to some kind of mediated understanding, but ultimately, we don’t really know the phenomenon that is pain.


It is something I have asked myself a lot. Why do people suffer? What are the metaphysical reasons for something like the anomaly that is suffering? Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion of why this is the case, I have abandoned the question, or at least, don’t think about it as much philosophically anymore. But that doesn’t mean I am not thinking about the question, at least in my own way.


It would seem that when it comes to my own psyche, I am oblivious of my motivations, oblivious of my unconscious mind. I just know that I suffer, in ways that I cannot immediately explain, express, or understand. I try to understand it in my own terms, as well as understand it objectively, but I don’t always succeed in this, because my mind is a mystery, an iceberg in the cold dark water that goes so deep. I know that my psychosis runs very deep in my psyche, and attaches itself to my every thought, so essentially, my fears, my anxieties, my worries about death, the confronting of my own mortality, the paranoia and the fear that I have with other people: I can’t escape that, because it runs deep in my mind, the fear that I am about to die in a violent way, or in a tragic way: an amplification of my experience.


I could philosophize all day about this kind of issue, but there are other things I would like to talk about in relation to this larger issue I am broaching. Yesterday was a tough day for me, because I wasn’t treated with respect at my job, and that hurt. I haven’t been treated with respect, really at all, whether in work or the world, and that has been very difficult for me, for a person who already has persecutory delusions as it is. Basically, I find the situation to be absurd and stupid, and I am upset that it destroyed me the way that it did. What I understood, was that I had broken a rule by listening to music on my shift, and my employer didn’t understand that it was because I was trying to cope with a stressful situation, and hold back the reign of my mental illness. But I interpreted her imperative for me to listen to music on my own terms outside, not in front of the kids at my job, as an attack, a personal attack, and my paranoia got kicked up even more. And I can kind of understand why I perceived it this way: she probably was expressing a certain degree of frustration with me and the larger situation at work, that I then internalized, and that made my experience even worse.


I know that most people can do that pretty well. That is, listen to the demands of their employer. But I acknowledge that this is why I didn’t want to have a job in the first place, was because I am not very good at interpersonal relationships, or at least certain kinds, such as those in the workforce. And I would say that people don’t necessarily understand my concerns, a lot of which deals with my mental illness and how that manifests itself in a way that is never productive or helpful for anyone.


So, yesterday was going very rough. It seemed I couldn’t get any respite or rest. But the kids distracted me for a moment, when they wanted to play a game with me, a kind of cops and robbers game. Honestly, it warmed my heart, that they wanted to play with me. It distracted me in the moment,for the moment, because I love kids and their spirit. And it reminded me that I really am working hard to make the best of the situation at my job. But I understand that where I am at, because of many experiences that have happened there, it is not a good fit for me, and it is problematic to be there, in a toxic environment, where the people there don’t respect me or really care about my struggles.


I remember very vividly, when I tried to make a joke to one of the people there that clearly has a problem with me, it was an attempt to be a part of the in crowd. But then she responded with sarcasm, which cut really deep, dismissing my attempt at kindness and solidarity. According to Freud, emotions express themselves eventually, as they boil within our psyche. My friend Preston described to me the realization that emotional trauma and pain is not a one to one relationship, like when you are hit physically, and then you hit somebody back. It often percolates in our mind instead, the emotional struggle and the emotional experience and trauma, and that emotion and pain often comes out in other contexts and situations. I realized that when I basically lost my cool at a pizzeria. I was trying to treat myself to a decent meal after a long week at work, of many discouraging experiences, but I wasn’t able to control my emotions, which came out in a very emotional way. I ended up crying at the pizzeria, upset that they had put meat on my pizza, when I am a staunch vegetarian. Of course normally, this wouldn’t upset me that much, I can just get another pizza made. But because of my mood and because of how the day had gone, and how the week had gone, I wasn’t able to keep my emotions in check. So I started getting upset. Basically, I remember going out to my car with my pizza, and asking people there to just kill me, and when I was inside of my car, I saw the pizza had meat on it, and that was when I realized I had had enough, of my intense emotions and my inability to express them in any meaningful way.


Of course, sometimes people break down. This is something that I need to understand, I just wish that I would have been able to keep my emotions in check, so I wouldn’t have gotten upset at this pizzeria. I didn’t want drama, I didn’t want struggle, I didn’t want trouble: yet that was what happened because I was having such a rough week, being disrespected at work, being disrespected in the world, struggling to make sense of my life and my new responsibilities.


But I would say the suffering is very real. Perhaps I cannot be definitive about my story, because there is so much to share, but the emotions in the moment were very real, like they have been all week for me. I knew that the way I was coping with it, with the situation, by asking people to kill me, was definitely not the way to express my emotions, and I understand that people have a hard time with it, and ignore me because they don’t really know what to do with it except act with callousness and a disregard. But I would say that is part of the difficulty, of course, is that in those moments I need support, I need people to show compassion to me and not make it seem as though I would be better off with a bullet in my head.


But I am grateful for the kindness of people as well, and the beauty and art that is already in the world. As I was having my break down at the pizzeria, upset and telling them I couldn’t eat meat because it was the slaughter of animals, and that I was a stupid dipshit and was spending money that I didn’t have, and that I basically just wanted people to shoot me because I could see that desire in their face: I was listening to Down, Wicked, and No Good, an EP by In Flames, one of my favorite bands. That specific bit of music is very moody and atmospheric, capturing emotions that I feel, such as hurt and pain, and doing it in a way that helps me cope with my strong emotions. I feel like listening to this music in the hard moments allowed me to cope, even if in the moment it was only background music. They were also very kind to me at the pizzeria, the fact that I lost my cool, and they gave me pistachio ice cream. I will never forget that bit of kindness, it really means the world to me, that someone saw that I was struggling and offered to try to make my day better in the best way they could. I will never forget that. It tells me that the world is not all bad, even when I am at my worst.


I know that I have to do better, of course, and it is my goal to be in touch with my emotions, so even while I can’t prevent the storm from carrying me away, I can at least focus on my emotions, focus on my internal narrative, my drives and my instincts, my desires and goals.


Because I know that this fear that I have, of my mortality, of dying violently, of existing in the world of pain, of persecutory delusions, definitely runs deep within my mind, due to past traumas, past experiences, and the pain of my past. There are of course also biological reasons for this pain that runs deep within my psyche, that of which is also important to be aware of. So in that way I have trouble focusing, because my fears run so deep within my head, and I am unable to reign it in at times.


I realize that it runs deep and that in some ways, there is nothing that I can do except do my best to practice mindfulness, meditation, and working hard to focus on the positive. But as you can imagine, it is difficult when my psyche is literally leveled against me, when my very existence becomes a threat to myself, exacerbating the threat that is already in the physical and social world. I really don’t know how I get over these traumatic experiences, of such intense emotion, delusion, and feeling, and that is because, it is very difficult for me to understand and experience these emotions, much less control them. I have to accept what it is, and accept that my psyche is very sensitive to stimuli, and in that way, I have to let myself be okay with the unknown, and with a psyche dealing with so much.


And I know I can do it. I know that I can’t always control what is happening in the world, but I can do my best to at least be aware of what is going on in my mind and deep within my troubled psyche, even when I can’t control it and control the process. I know that I have done very well for a long time, I have gotten through it all, and that gives me so much hope. Because I know that there is good in the world, and there is no reason why my psyche has to experience only pain. Even though these ideas run deep within my head, paranoia, paranoid delusion, fear and isolation, I know that people love me, and that gives me a lot of hope. Because it means that I can continue to live, and be a blessing to others.


Midnight Mania! Free eBook!

Midnight Mania is free today for Kindle. I wrote it when I was going through difficult times. But it’s a good book and I hope you’ll check it out.

How Between the Buried and Me Made Me Feel

I started off with trying to think of the right words to say, and express the deeply held and suppressed ideas, but that was too hard.

How Between the Buried and Me made me feel, a concert I attended, March 6, 2017.

What was I expecting? Mind blown, perhaps, though this happened. Maybe something else. Maybe knowing for certain, how a rock band I adore makes me feel. But I admit, I don’t know what that is. And that’s because, when I listen to this band, I feel a deep pain that I can’t quite explain. It’s a very unconscious experience. I listen to this great metal band precisely because I don’t understand them. Thus emphasis on the unconscious parts of my psyche.

They made me feel good. But that’s assuming, good is a relative term. Because I can’t really know how they made me feel.

Condemned to the Gallows. The Coma Machine. Astral Body. Three of my favorite songs, they played. I nearly exploded during some of their songs that I didn’t know. Those were highlighted moments, for me. Like imagining their lead guitarist or bass guitarist, smiling at me, because he knows the pain that I feel at any given moment. Like the guy there that was kind of mean to me, and triggered in my mind, by way of saying that harm would happen to me, that I myself was suicidal.
How does one make such connections, when one is merely just trying to have fun?

Between the Buried and Me blew my fucking mind. They make me want to do things I can’t normally do. They make me feel like I can literally transcend the pain that I feel, even though their music has its own type of pain. Pain.

Pain pain pain. Maybe that’s not what’s actually happening, of course. But I guess if their new line is, “We serve our own hell,” people like in the band, like Tommy Rogers, certainly have felt pain. And that’s a real feeling.
I ended up crying during their first song. The opening was epic. Because I was paranoid, I didn’t face the stage when they came out. I couldn’t. I just needed to listen to the music. They started singing and they didn’t hit the spot. And that made me remind myself, that they like being off key. It’s a concert, let them experiment.

But Tommy Rogers was determined. He owned that keyboard. He did things that I could only ever dream of doing.

Of course, it’s one thing to be a sycophant about a band I don’t even know, maybe that’s there too. Maybe I wish I could do what they do. Maybe that’s all I wish. But maybe that’s just insanity. Maybe I’d do well to just enjoy the music, and not focus on the things I don’t understand, the things I can’t really control. Usually I sing along to bands at concerts, but I felt like the audience was off key at this concert, in a way that wasn’t cool. Meaning, the band literally transcended any melodic sounds that might come from the audience, from the exterior world, in favor of what’s within. And this was because: this band knows what they are doing musically. They’ve mastered it. They’ve mastered song.

What can I say about the fact that I cried? Well, I’ve heard that, men don’t cry in public. I’ve done that once before, an experience at a bar before the concert, and it was a sad experience. But when you hear something and it speaks to you, what else can you do? Hence why I focus on how I feel, not how I felt. It’s not about the background, it’s not about the past. It’s about the present. I’m really excited for Automata, which I wanted to buy last night, and only didn’t because I was oblivious. Because I didn’t have time, had to catch the train.

I’d like to articulate the difficulty that I have with their music. As I have been saying, it is very unconscious. It is an unconscious process. This is because I just don’t know enough about music, to be able to understand what they are actually doing, musically, and even in terms of their theatrics and performance. And yet, it all kind of meshes for me, it all comes together. I feel it because I understand it.

As I reflect on this metal band, I think about kindness itself, compassion. Maybe that seems a little strange and off topic, when you’re talking about a heavy metal band, that exists in a kind of mind hell, a hell of their own. But nonetheless, when I had a scuffle with that one guy, I knew I had to do better. I had the words of my therapist and friends going through my mind like a mantra, a refrain. It was kind of musical in its own way. I knew I couldn’t let somebody ruin my experience, seeing a band that I was looking forward to seeing. I couldn’t be distracted. I had to focus (lift the lens …). I had to let myself experience a moment, and not worry about things that happened that were just pointless occurrences. In that way, I was certainly feeling pain. That was because, what choice did I have? My life has been good, but also tumultuous, chaotic, I haven’t really been sure what was going on. And because I have been so nervous and excited, I haven’t slept very well. I’m starting a new job on Thursday, I just wanted to go to a metal concert and enjoy myself.

Which comes to no surprise: I did, I did go to a concert. I thought it was a really cool experience, and even though that is very broad and obvious, that is nonetheless how I feel. It was really cool seeing these musicians play, because they captured something that I feel, but that I can’t immediately express or say. And they do that with instruments that seem very simple, but that they make very complex and nuanced. I really feel that Between the Buried and Me is one of the best bands in the world, and certainly one of the best bands that I have ever heard. I know that that is a little cagey, sycophancy, but that is how I feel.

Never fall back. Trapped in myself.

One of their lines. From Astral Body, one of my favorite songs.

So, what do I do with all of these emotions and experiences? The band Dear Hunter was very good, as well as the vocals of the band Leprous. That goes without saying, though. And bands that perform their progressive metal are very amazing, they are very remarkable. I could probably never say that enough.

It was like listening to black static. It was like listening to a symphony. It was like seeing the rainbow cracked open, and spilling all of its dark colors and shades. The static was certainly there, perhaps created through the keyboard. Automata. Speak to me, freely. Because, you know, I am listening. That was the only part of all of their songs that I wanted to sing to (speak to me, freely), but I didn’t do it because I love the band so much, and I needed to listen. But this line, these lines, have influenced me in the deepest sort of way shaping my philosophy of the world. I consider this song to be my favorite, that is, Astral Body, and that is because of what they have done with this song, and what it has taught me.

But you know, when you feel something, you can’t hide yourself from it. You have to be able to let the light in, that are a little split and fragmented, revealing what exactly they are, and what you are. You have to let the red lights tell you what is happening, tell you what is existing, and even though that is hard, and you acknowledge the pain in your head and just want to cry, you know that you yourself are not suicidal, that we merely, serve in your own hell: and that is enough.

The weird chemistry that I have between this band and how they affect me in daily life, is of course, a little excessive, in my style, the style of the firebird. I go crazy about them, in other words. But the basic idea is that I consider this band to be doing things that are a milestone for me, something that I can seek. I seek to do what they do with music, by way of my own writing. I seek to push my own boundaries, and understand the world. I have some pretty cool ideas lined up, to be able to write, and, I realize that I don’t sing in concerts, because I want to connect. I want to be able to connect with the band. And I feel like I have, and I miss them already. But that’s okay.

Of course, I don’t expect to be understood. I write this essay, in the hopes that the ideas spread, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much. I feel what I feel, and that is enough. I don’t have to go out and experiment with such deep music, I can just let myself enjoy myself, at what was to me a very special rock concert. Of course, I try to be cool, or at the very least, try to play it cool, but in the end, I know I will just be that confused kid listening to one of his favorite bands at a metal concert, longing so much for that connection, to feel something deep, to feel something great, to really understand it. You have to be hardcore. You have to have thick skin. I would say that I don’t necessarily have this, but I would say that I am seeking to learn it, like learning to play the keyboard, like learning to play the guitar. I noted to some people that I don’t think were interested in my analysis, that the drummer guards the heart of the band. This is merely just a creative throwaway line, but I like to believe that there is some truth to it. It is all about positioning, you know, focusing on how you feel. You have to keep those things in mind: how do you feel? How does a band make you feel? How does an astral body make you feel? How does Between the Buried and Me make you feel? I would say I don’t need to know. It is okay to exist in ignorance, I will not always have the intellectual concept that I need to survive, with me realizing that I don’t always need it: sometimes the music that I listen to is enough, and that helps me understand the way things are. An experience of a rock concert, for instance.

I try to stay humble, I try to check my ego at the door. I think in some ways at least, I succeed with this adventure of mine. But honestly, I’m so grateful that I get to feel and experience such things, even if I myself am sad for reasons that have nothing to do with anything. But I feel like that is okay. I feel like that is just how it is at times. Colors, coma machines, parallax: you just feel it. And in the end, that is enough. Because I believe, at least metaphysically, bands like this have my back. Maybe not literally. It’s a simple concept, but important: I know that the music that I’m listening to, will take me home somehow. I know this, I know that I can rest with these bands, with this music. And that’s good. It’s how I feel.

Black Panther (from Philosophical Asides)

[My thoughts on the Marvel film Black Panther.]

I have to admit: I was moved by Black Panther, the film right before the final showdown in Avengers: Infinity War. So in terms of where the film fits on the story line, it was an important film, and even though I’m not sure how it fits into the larger universe, I know I will soon enough.
Why did I like the movie? I’m not sure that I can say, immediately at least. It’s something that takes time. Of course, knowing me, you know I liked it for its revolutionary elements, not even just in terms of politics and film, but also the literary qualities as well.

Black Panther certainly had a rich history to pull from. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin, President Obama, Cornel West, Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, August Wilson, others. Black radicals and those who identify as part of the African or African American tradition, have enriched the world of literature and storytelling in a way that one cannot easily ignore. I myself am not as well-versed as I’d like to be, but I’m going to get there, because I want to understand the heritage, even if I am not directly a part of it.

What to make of the themes of revolution in the story? Well, for one thing, I find it inspiring. Revolutions are not always understood. The closest analogue that I have to revolution in my own personal worldview is the philosophical work and impact of Karl Marx. Marx himself was a revolutionary spirit, and I empathize with much of his efforts, even though it ultimately led to something like Soviet Russia, because I want to defend the poor, and fight for the exploited and marginalized.

Of course, I cannot be a part of the heritage of the Black Panthers. Honestly, some of the history is vague to me, when considering that I’ve been assimilated into American culture, even though I am from a Hispanic background, and my family grew up in poverty. I myself did not live in poverty, because my parents provided. But that doesn’t take away the history.

I am taken in by the line of Killmonger, a Malcolm X inspired villain/anti-hero/hero: He wanted to provide weapons from Wakanda to the poor and exploited, to African Americans and Africans. He didn’t want them to suffer. He wanted them to be able to fight back. I very much could empathize with Killmonger and his rage, because if you have been exploited for so long, you cultivate a subtle or less than subtle rage. It becomes a part of you. The desire to fight back. The desire to show them you’re game for violence. Even though I am a pacifist in many, many ways, I understand the point here, which is something that is missed by those with privilege, sometimes including myself: People have always used violence to get their way and control others, and that is exactly the point of white supremacy and white privilege. America is what it is because of the work of slaves and the massacre of American Indians. I don’t forget this, which is why I do my absolute best to pay attention to certain stories needing to be told, such as Black Panther.

The historical precedent, of course, would tell us that Malcolm X was wrong. He was too radical. But while I don’t think violence is the answer, force and revolution have their place in the world. I mean this, in that, we need people like Malcolm X. He is not all the revolution would ever be, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t important to the formation of black identity.

I honestly wish I understood black culture more, there are many reasons why I can relate. I have not always fit inside of a neat category, being both gay and mentally ill. Mental illness has given me a harder time than being gay, though they are both difficult. Being mentally ill is a scourge that follows you forever. You don’t easily fit in in any given situation. You are marginalized for having an atypical system of thought, for delving into something like paranoia or mania.

I mention this not for sympathy, but because I feel as though it allows me to experience certain feelings of alienation from society, that perhaps black people feel as well and have felt for a long time. This doesn’t mean that I am immediately a part of the tradition, though I have experienced similar feelings of ostracism. Indeed, I do know what it feels like, to be treated as though you are inferior, a mere second-class citizen. And for reasons like this, I see Black Panther as being important. It shines a light on various systematic troubles in our society, and it helps me to pay attention to what is going on in other cultures.

I was moved by the rage of Killmonger, and that is because I feel as though such emotions are important to acknowledge. In our society, we are expected to take what we are given, we are expected to turn the other cheek, but this is not how life operates, and this is not how those in power operate. All of these details are incredibly important to keep in mind, even if we don’t agree with them. I can imagine people might disagree with the conclusions of the movie Black Panther, but that is by no means a reflection of the truth, but rather the biases that we already have. I have learned that in art and in life, we don’t always try to understand merely what we like. We try to also understand counter perspectives. This is extremely crucial to a functioning democracy.

And what about the characterization of Black Panther himself? Well, he was the antidote to violence, even though he would fight for what he felt was right. His position is also immediately recognizable, in that he believed in peace, and that he was very much like Martin Luther King. Stuff like this is extremely important to keep in mind. There must be counterpoints to all the things that we believe, and that includes the stoicism of Black Panther himself to the violence of Killmonger.

I was really impressed at the technical achievements of the film as well, the fact that it was a well-done movie, the fact that the story line was solid, the fact that it was an important story to tell and was well-told. All of these elements, the fact that they were able to have an all-black cast, with a black director, leads to something truly revolutionary, and a story that must be told.

I agree with Chadwick Boseman: there are stories that we must tell, and we must be cognizant of when it is the right time to tell them. I have respect for these characters and these actors, because they help to shine a light on very important ideas, whether that focuses on revolution, or the way in which black children are displaced by a violent and oppressive culture.

I was really surprised at the underlying optimism of this dark story. This includes the ending, which had kids being able to experience the technology of Wakanda. The Black Panther was going to reveal the technology to society, to make the world a better place. I honestly was expecting, because of how I had seen other movies being portrayed in the MCU, this film to be very high-stakes, with a kind of built in cynicism and doubt. Maybe this is just me projecting, but regardless, the film was actually very hopeful and even optimistic, and it presented alternatives to the society that we have now, something that I find to be both beautifully done and crucially important. We do not get carried away by thinking that everything is how it is going to be, for that is the very spirit of revolution: we believe we can change the world, that society will progress, and we act on such principles, never giving up.

In summary, I would certainly say, this is an important film, even if it is perceived as being superhero fluff, so to speak. But I personally have been very moved by this film, and I think that it does a lot of what the film should do, what good storytelling should do: it should help us to see the world in a different light, to see the world from the perspective of somebody else, in this case, black America, and Africa. I know that this is hard to do, but this is why we need art. Art is able to show us what we need, and what we can have, if only we are willing to fight for it, to keep trying, to keep progressing. People are malleable, and we have to be able to inspire them to live in the world more compassionately and with more awareness, and have empathy for those who are suffering and are exploited. So I would say, this movie moved me precisely because it showed an important perspective that I don’t always see, but that I certainly want to be aware of, and that I know exists. Whether you side more with Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, is your choice, but just be aware: you are making your choice, and you can save the world.