Intellectual Freedom (An Essay)

Enjoy this new essay on the topic of intellectual freedom.

I struggle with notions of obligation and coercion, especially when it comes to our intellectual freedoms.

I defend certain Enlightenment and American notions of freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and freedom to act. I think it is important that we are able to think freely about issues plaguing us in the world, and we are able to come to our own conclusions, even if they are flawed.

We need to be able to come to our own conclusions regarding the issues in the world, but I feel as though it is often easy to offload our view in order to integrate with the collective. When I am talking about intellectual freedom, however, I am not talking about a dismissal of virtues, such as cooperation, compassion, agreeableness, and good will. I am not saying that we think and do whatever we want, and that we don’t care about the consequences of what we do and what we say. Certainly I think people take these Enlightenment and American views to mean such things, but that is not the way that it is for me. The views are not arrogantly self-righteous, a deep humility and skepticism must be part of this view of these freedoms.

For me, rather, it is a flight from doctrine and indoctrination. I don’t want to fall for dogmatic views, I don’t want to be told what to think about issues where I may have a different opinion, I don’t want someone with bad faith telling me what to do. I think it is important that we facilitate, foster, and cultivate our individual and intellectual consciousness, our own awareness, so that way we can really decide what is going on in the world, and what we must do as a consequence. This is not easy to do, of course, and certainly, there are many obstacles and challenges to being able to do so. I’m also not talking about ideological boundaries, where people are incapable of seeing another point of view because of what they already strongly believe.

But then, what is intellectual freedom? I think it is important that I identify that intellectual freedom is valuable, because it allows us to ask questions, intellectual freedom allows us to question things and explore on our own. The system, institutions, and groups are not necessarily right, just because they are popular, effective, or efficient. We may be a lot of things, but we are also subjective beings, and while we definitely have a strong evolutionary basis for group identity and cohesion, we also experience the world through our own lens, and I wish to honor this.

Each person brings their own individual experience, and I don’t think that we realize this at times, and become fanatical. In a simple way, I am talking about subjectivity, our subjectivity. There are many views that would claim that we are more a part of groups than we are anything else, or that there is no actual individual experience, that this is just an illusion. I totally understand these views, and while I would say that I understand the implications of these views, I struggle with the implications themselves, because I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and much messier, and certainty less defined.

Intellectual freedom, then, is individual freedom. I am not arguing for American individualism, in that people are always rational, or that they only think about themselves, or that they never listen to the group. There must be a moderation of this view, we should not just be able to do and think whatever we want. Yet part of living a good life is coming to these conclusions for ourselves, being able to explore science and philosophy and the realm of ideas, and not getting hung up on the things that we think we are supposed to believe, say, and do. We are often told what to do, what to think, but this is not necessarily correct.

Intellectual freedom involves creativity just as much as it does balance and temperance. It is a creative endeavor, just as much as a moral one. While I would say the truth is not always the most beautiful thing in the world, that it is not always elegant, I would say that truth is important for us understanding how the world really operates. While I am a little bit jaded with notions that rationality, as an example, is the way that we can have intellectual freedom, I would say that part of intellectual freedom includes the ability to have rational discussion and debate, to focus on things that we can prove or substantiate in the world. In a sense, Occam’s razor.

I know that intellectual freedom can mean ideological freedom as well, but I think sometimes this is a conflation, and a mistaken one. I don’t think that freethinking means that we think whatever we want. This is especially true whenever we give in to any given ideology, that tells us exactly what to believe. One of the biggest mistakes with intellectual work, is that we assume the conclusion, we beg the question; and by that, I mean that we only look for evidence that supports our views (confirmation bias), and we look for evidence that confirms what we already believed at the outset. This kind of reasoning is circular, and obviously very flawed. Ideologies require that you don’t come to your own conclusions, but accept what people already think.

So this is really the hard part of trying to live with integrity. You don’t want to reject worldviews and different points of view, but you always want to have your own point of view. You don’t want to be antagonistic to the group, but you also want to accept that your experiences don’t fit into any neat category. You want to stand up to injustice, but you also want to be kind with the way that you approach others. You want to vote for a certain candidate, while still holding your own views. You want to be able to say which you think, even if it is unpopular. But intellectual freedom is not an easy thing to facilitate, and it is because intellectual freedom is at odds with expediency, and our culture of the “now.” It seems that it is much easier to just say and believe certain things that we are told, certainly we weren’t evolved to understand the truth, or at least a large percentage of the truth. We evolved for as much efficiency us humans could possibly have. Sometimes it may in fact be better not to know the truth, I think this is true in some ways.

Assuming that we can have integrity, however, intellectual freedom, in my estimation, is very important. It is important that we are able to explore and expand our point of view, contributing to the knowledge of the world, and come to conclusions that satisfy us. Intellectual freedom, then, can make the world a better place, because it can shine a light on areas where truth is not immediately apparent. In other words, when I am exploring the topic, I want to be able to explore that topic in an abstract sense, I don’t want to be told what to believe about that topic, and I don’t want to be told what I should believe in general. I want to be free to learn for myself. The reason why I advocate for such a specific version of intellectual freedom, is because I think that it is really important that people are able to ask questions, and question dogma, long-held assumptions, and even common sense views. It is very easy to manipulate someone to believe a certain thing, it is very easy to even coerce or force a person to believe certain things, and I think that this is a very big problem, believing what you’re told does not guarantee truth, nor does it guarantee originality. It seems to me that the biggest problem is that people are not really living, if they are just told what to believe, who to vote for and what to say and believe; in that way, they are not thinking for themselves, and experiencing their own world. I don’t know how to emphasize this view and point, except to just say that, even though group identity is important, we should still be able to understand our own points of view, and we should have the freedom to articulate that, in as much good faith is possible.

The way that I see the world, it is one of frequent ideological battles. You don’t believe these things, so you must be wrong. Your point of view is leading to the destruction of the world, or, less dramatically, your view is stupid and uninteresting. However we look at these things, we are constantly being bombarded with the way that we are supposed to believe and think about things. We can definitely trust collective wisdom, and I think that is part of the process of intellectual freedom, but we also have to understand why we personally come to these conclusions. Otherwise it’s useless. If we don’t understand how we came to the conclusions that we did, we are doomed to just repeat what we’re told, without even knowing why.

The values that I am advocating for are a little bit idealistic. In the real world, we have to make decisions constantly, and we have to be actors on the world stage. They are also not always efficient for getting things done, and they can have the downside of being ineffective. Certainly not everybody cares about truth, so if you’re speaking what you believe to be true, it doesn’t mean that people will connect with that. Maybe I am biased by Enlightenment thinking, or wanting to think for myself and be original and honest, but I legitimately believe that it is very important that we have this ability. I would say that we have a responsibility to get to the truth, and to get there honestly and with integrity.

So do what you can. Learn what you can, and contribute what you are able. Life is certainly not an easy or cut and dry thing, as we know, and it is really hard to think in a pure fashion, to allow yourself to come to a natural conclusion. We are certainly pressured to come to certain conclusions, and we ourselves don’t always know what we actually believe. So long as we continue to explore the world and the universe around us, I believe we will be okay. There is so much to understand, so much to overcome, and we can make the world better through honest engagement and thought.

When SWAT Showed Up At My Door

Crazy experience I had. I wrote an essay on it. Enjoy.

Yesterday was a tough day.

There’s not much I can do about the chaos that may happen around me sometimes. I can’t control the actions of other people, all I can do is try to manage my emotions, feel what I feel, and get through it. This isn’t always easy, but I am certainly getting better at it.

Yesterday was tough. We literally had the SWAT team at my apartment complex, in response to a call. We had to evacuate the building, and stay outside for a minimum of three hours, without any information. Come to find out, it was an overreaction, because the person they were looking for wasn’t even there. Police are trained to respond to certain situations a certain way, but it is interesting to me that the situation that required so much backup and force, was not even what they said it was, and what that told us. This to me is one of the strange things about human fallibility, it seems to me that we perceive things that may not be that way at all. I think this precisely is what leads to so much human suffering and conflict.

On top of that, as if that wasn’t enough, I got frustrated with someone I knew, with something that happened, something that he did. I didn’t understand why he was interjecting all the time, and telling me that what I was saying wasn’t what the cop said, even though I was saying what the cop had said. Long story short, it was a stupid encounter, and it upset me greatly, and for a little bit, I lost my cool. I told this person what I thought of the situation. I couldn’t think straight, I was responding to stress. The cops were not being very kind or direct on what they needed us to do, and I was frustrated from being outside in the heat for three hours and being told what to do for something that literally didn’t even involve me, with me not being able to write and get the stuff done that I needed to. I certainly don’t believe that cops have all the answers, and while they are trained to respond to certain situations, I can say for certain that they don’t know everything about life, and they don’t know about the everyday experience of everyday people like myself.

As if that wasn’t enough, later I had someone start yelling at me when I was just walking back to my apartment. They called me a fucking faggot, even though they didn’t even know me, and they just kept yelling at me. I wasn’t going to take it, so I literally started to respond, and I told them what I felt, that they had no right to talk to me that way, especially when it was unprovoked. It didn’t seem to do any good, she continued to yell at me, but I felt as though I had still said something and defended my worth.

This has been a very difficult year. The pandemic is partly to blame, it has changed the way that people interact with each other, and that can be a very difficult thing. In terms of my feelings about yesterday, a lot of it was unnecessary. I recognize that I can continually keep my emotions in check, and not be upset or angry by what anyone tells me, but it was also an excessive situation, and it took its toll on me. The guy that they were looking for wasn’t even at the apartment complex. So we got all worked up over nothing. I feel like that is what humanity does in a lot of cases. We get upset about things that aren’t even there.

I especially think of this in my own context, where I often perceive things that aren’t there. Or, to give myself credit for discernment, I sometimes do not see things as they actually are. We get so worked up about things that aren’t what they seem. In my case, I was frustrated, because cops have never been very nice to me, this is just a fact, and it seemed as though the people around me yesterday, were judging me, even without knowing my situation or what I was feeling.

I do misperceive things, of course, and I should continue to work on my emotions. But I also feel as though these kinds of feelings about the world don’t just arise out of nowhere, and when you let people embarrass you in front of cops and telling you what they think you said, it can be really frustrating, especially when you’re just trying to handle your own situation and handle yourself. I don’t like the way that all of this turned out, and the reason is because it was not what it seemed to be. I think this is important to keep in mind. Often, we think things that aren’t there, and we have all of this drama and conflict, that has nothing to do with reality.

Yesterday I was on edge. To have tactical units and giant trucks drive up to your apartment complex, with military-dressed men with assault rifles, where you don’t even know what’s going on: I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a bit excessive, and violent. But I don’t think I was on edge just because of the force and ammunition that they had, but I was also on edge because my mood dipped, and suddenly the world felt unpredictable, chaotic, and out of control. Filtered through part of my paranoia, I realized that for a moment yesterday, I was in an altered state of mind, caused by these super negative experiences. I just didn’t care about what people thought that I needed to be saying or doing, because it wasn’t as though they knew what my life actually entails. When people assume that they know more about what you are going through, and then don’t even acknowledge what you are actually going through, they don’t know anything about you, or your life. In my estimation, they shouldn’t be so arrogantly conveying what they think that you know or what they think that you are saying. It’s none of their business.

But, things have been very chaotic over here, where I live. There has been a lot of drama between neighbors, so much confusion, and fighting, and conflict, and I don’t like it. This is why I am going to stay focused on my tasks and focus on the things that are important to me, because I don’t have time for drama. I don’t know what is going on right now, but I’m just doing my best to keep my cool, and to stay level and grounded. That is very important to me that I do, because I know that my emotions are unpredictable, and I know that they can sometimes spill over and make my life difficult.

I got into an interesting discussion with my friend about forgiveness. It seems to me that there is a lot about the notion of forgiving others, that does come at a price, that does come at a cost. I think of people like Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t like this fact, but I think for a long time I have understood that this is true. It seems as though it is really hard to forgive people, because it takes something out of us. When people do wrong to you, or they hurt you in some way, you want to hold on to your anger, and you definitely want a sense of justice. I totally understand all of this. When I am seeing the absolute worst in people, and don’t even know why it’s there, I realize that people do hurtful things all the time to each other, and we don’t even know why. So in my case, I’m going to do my best to focus on the positive of my situation, and forgive those that have wronged me in some way, and I’m going to do my best to let it go. It is hard to do, when I don’t like authority, when I don’t like when people tell me what I should think, but I shouldn’t hold onto all of these feelings, because it doesn’t do any good.

I have tried to get better at expressing and accepting my feelings, the way that I really feel. I always expect myself to be super rational, but the world itself is not rational, and so I have to find ways of conveying my frustrations and anger, without crossing any lines. Sometimes people don’t even listen to me when I do express these things. So I do my best to hold on to my rational mind, and analyze my emotions, and do my best to think about these things in a positive light, or at least in a better light. But it isn’t easy. It is so easy for me to feel like things are out of my control, and that is when my mood dips, and I become less rational, and my mindset, which often includes paranoia and other features, doesn’t help me think straight. This is why I think that it is better that I focus on what I really feel, and not expect myself to always be rational, in every situation. I think this is very important for me to keep in mind, because it is very easy for me to lose sight of what I really think about something, and the attempt to please other people and cooperate and to get along all the time. Sometimes I’m going to feel volatile, angry, hurt, or frustrated, and I need to accept that.

And so: the SWAT team arrived at my apartment complex yesterday. I don’t think that usually happens, even in the city, where there is still crime and a lot of problems. These are my opinions of what happened yesterday, and some of the philosophical things that I have been thinking about. It is not easy to navigate, and I don’t have all of the facts, so my perspective is not definitive. But it doesn’t need to be. It is my subjective experience. I hope something like that never happens again, because it was excessive and all it did was invoke fear and irrationality in people. So I am going to focus on moving through this, processing it, but also not taking it too seriously. Certainly this has been a crazy year, I have experienced a lot of tragedy and hardship this year, but I’m doing my absolute best, and that does count for something. I suppose this is what happens when the SWAT team shows up unexpectedly at your doorstep.

Living with Mental Illness (An Essay)

Enjoy this essay I wrote on living with mental illness. Find my books at amazon.com/author/phoenix_rises

Living with Mental Illness

Living with mental illness is a difficult thing. The suffering is difficult and torturous to live with, and it is often confusing and lonely. People don’t know or even care what you are going through, and the stigma on it is very strong.

I don’t always acknowledge these things. It’s easy for me to romanticize the psychological experience, in an attempt to live with it and cope with it, and justify the fact that I experience such intense pain. But the disease is not something I would wish for anyone. Not just because of the judgment of others and the pain that the mental illness brings, but also because I have to admit to myself that it’s not something that I actually want.

I’ve justified the mental illness before, many times before. I had to, to make sense of it, and to not deny that it exists. And while I do have meaning from living with the disease, I have to acknowledge that it’s painful to live with, and can be dangerous if not dealt with.

Mental illness is in fact very brutal. Not just for me, but for those who experience mental illness as well. It dissociates you from yourself, and follows a hellish process to unfold that never makes sense. Many people judge those with mental illness, so having the scorn of other people certainly doesn’t help the situation.

I know people and have known people, with mental illness, and I see how they struggle with the disease in a variety of ways that are hard to see. It’s not something I want for anyone. While I don’t know the subjective experience of those with the disease, I see what they go through and recognize that it’s not something that enhances their lives, but makes it even more painful and harder to live with. I’ve lost friends to suicide, and it seems to me that the suffering mental illness brings is enough to destroy the person experiencing it. This is a fact that we can’t deny or take for granted.

I have often said not only does mental illness bring my life meaning, but it made me the person I am today. While claims like this are certainly true to a degree, the flip side is that I also suffer a lot with it, and the pain is enough to overwhelm me on many different occasions. Of course, I’m just trying to find the silver lining to a tough situation, but I also need to acknowledge the difficulty my illness brings to my life. While it’s true that my life does have meaning through my difficult experiences and because of them, I shouldn’t romanticize the disease as being the main reason why I have meaning in my life.

It makes sense why I rationalize things that way. There is ultimately no justification for this kind of suffering. It’s not good in most cases. In my estimation, it’s easy to search for something that isn’t there, or something that I don’t fully acknowledge.

As I said, I’ve lost friends to suicide. I’ve seen people self-medicate with drugs. Mental illness is not something to mess with. It brings people a lot of pain. It’s not fair what happens, but it’s because the experience of mental illness is so hard to live with. I know I myself could have committed suicide on some occasions. I’ve been in psychological states so cruel I didn’t even know how to get through it. Somehow I did. I had some degree of understanding to get me through it, but it’s hard to have that kind of insight when you’re experiencing it in real time.

Living with mental illness is a difficult thing, then; it’s a fact. I wouldn’t want anyone that I love to have to deal with it, and I wouldn’t wish the disease on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

My own mind states can be very difficult to live with. It seems as though many people don’t understand that mental illness puts you in a completely different mindset than the norm. Not only is it painful, and people don’t understand it, but the experience doesn’t usually make sense, even though it would seem as though it should.

More and more through time, as I live my life, I wish that I did not have to have mental illness, that I could have a normal life. In the past I may have justified it, because I said that it gave my life meaning, but through time, I have realized that my mental illness makes it hard for me in a lot of ways, that I wish that I didn’t have to experience. Why suffer so needlessly? Why not be happier in life, without mental illness?

It is true that I wouldn’t know what I would be like if I didn’t have mental illness. I feel as though I am more compassionate to people, because of the disease, and I feel as though I understand things on a deeper level, because I have been forced to do so by the disease. But even with that, I shouldn’t say that is something that is necessarily good or worthwhile, and this is an important point. While I think it is good to have certain things because of adversity and struggle, I also wonder, what would I be like if I didn’t have mental illness? I believe that I would be able to live a much more normal life. I believe that I would enjoy things more. I would more easily be able to fit in, and I would be accepted by mainstream society a lot easier.

But this isn’t the way that it works. Often, our illness overwhelms us, and it makes us different, just by default. I don’t like it, I don’t like that I have to live with such different experiences all the time, which no one in society can even relate to. That often makes me feel isolated, with people thinking I’m just crazy.

The good news is, I have learned to live with the disease in a way that I haven’t always been able to. I am able to apply skills that I have learned, to be able to understand what it is that I am experiencing. Mindfulness and being present is such a huge part of this, as is being compassionate to myself, accepting my state of mind, and moving forward with hope and love.

Believe me, the mind states that I experience, are not something to take lightly, and I have learned this through time. There is a difficulty with getting through manic feelings or depression, with battling psychosis, with dealing with paranoia and fear. When I look back at my life, I see that I have experienced a lot of pain, and that is because of my mental illness. When I was first diagnosed, when I was fifteen, everything changed for me. I felt as though I had become an outsider almost overnight, and that people looked down on me and judged me because I had something that they didn’t understand. I myself at this time and in the days after, did not fully understand what I was experiencing, and it was enough to devastate me at certain times. It was really hard to experience something that no one else did, where people thought I was crazy, and where they didn’t understand it, and they didn’t even want to.

It can be isolating, when you feel as though no one knows what you are going through, and nor do they seek to know or empathize.

As I said, I find ways of adapting to what I am experiencing, and I apply skills to be able to deal with it. But it seems to me that the pain of it is very real, and there are nights where I stay awake until two o’clock, thinking about the things that my mental illness brings to the forefront of my mind, feeling strong feelings of despair and anxiety, unable to deal with the harsh emotions that I feel. This is really frustrating to have to live with all the time. I have had so many nights where I can’t sleep, and I keep thinking I’m going to be okay, but then, my mood continues to dip, whether I like it or not. This is a very difficult thing, and in all honesty, I don’t like it at all, but it is how it is. There have been so many times where I am seemingly stable and grounded, but then something happens or my mood dips or I think about something that makes me sad, and then suddenly I am off balance and upset, and I can’t get my emotions to change, I can’t change my mindset. Days like this, I just have to ride it out, but it can often be very difficult, and I’m not always sure that I’m going to succeed.

Somehow or another, I have actually been able to succeed with all of this. Certainly, that does matter. I have been able to find ways of coping, I have learned how to apply skills, and I am resilient. I understand things about the human condition that I have come to by way of my painful experiences, and that at least gives me a reference point from which to consult. One of the things that I am aware of acutely because of my experiences, is that life is a difficult thing and pain is a part of life, and I don’t deny this at all, in fact, I embrace it as a part of life. It is a fact of life for this to be the case, for pain to be a part of the human condition, and it sucks, but I know that that is the way that it is.

Living with mental illness is not easy, and I wouldn’t want anyone to have to experience it. It is a very hard thing, and I often don’t know how I survive. While there are good things that have come by way of my disease, there is also been a lot of needless pain, and I think that I am definitely a different person because of it. This isn’t always bad, but it certainly can be difficult to live with in most cases, and for the reasons I mentioned earlier, it is easy to feel isolated and as though you are alone. Mental illness is a difficult thing, and I accept that, even if I don’t always know what to do with it.

But, I nonetheless continue to push forward. I can’t control my biology and the environment I grew up in, and it’s clear that my life is difficult with the disease, but I’ve learned to confront and survive adversity, and I will never give up. I’m grateful for my experiences, even the hard ones, and while my life will be difficult, I feel hopeful nonetheless that I will persist, I will continue to live, and that I’ll find joy, and I’ll find happiness, despite living with mental illness.

The Intellectual Dark Web (An Essay)

Enjoy this essay, where I talk about the Intellectual Dark Web and their influence.

I first learned about the Intellectual Dark Web a couple years ago. I had known about some of the members beforehand, most notably Joe Rogan and Sam Harris, but about this time other thinkers, such as Jordan Peterson and the Weinstein brothers, had begun to rise to prominence.

I found out about the Intellectual Dark Web because of my friend. He and I had been following a loose group of intellectuals, including the ones I mentioned already, and it was interesting to see it starting to coalesce into what could be called a movement.

But what is the Intellectual Dark Web? I’ll start with my own definition of what it means to me, based off what I’ve seen so far. It is a group of intellectuals, somewhat open-ended but also established, where people talk about a variety of topics that quite simply, can’t be shared in mainstream media. Joe Rogan was one of the first pioneers of this idea, by focusing on his podcast, where his conversations with other guests took place over at least a couple of hours. This long form of conversation was starting to gather momentum, as YouTube came to prominence, and as people started to get more and more dissatisfied with the status quo and with traditional media.

To me, this idea of having uncensored conversation, seems like the best thing that you can have. In a world where you’re not allowed to express what you think, it is very valuable to have people talking about difficult issues, and for people to listen and even take part of. This was one of the most important ideas regarding the IDW, which was that people be free to speak, that they be able to talk with others over a period of time. One of the problems with mainstream media at this point in history, was that everything was reduced to a mere soundbite. For instance, one only need to think of the interview between Cathy Newman and Jordan Peterson on Channel 4 News. There was much more that Jordan Peterson had to say, than in a mere soundbite on television.

It was interesting to think about the confluence of events at this time. There had been dramatic moments like what happened at Evergreen College, where professors like Bret Weinstein were confronted by students and protesters in a highly dysfunctional way. YouTube was beginning to gain more and more popularity, allowing for independent media, and a lot of normal people were really hungry for something much more meaningful, such as conversations on science and philosophy and ideas.

In my estimation, the IDW was and is far from perfect. In my estimation, many of the speakers in the group, especially Ben Shapiro, focus way too much on politics over truth, and while politics are an important part of the movement itself (and why it came to prominence), it is not everything. Also, the intellectuals in this group sometimes limit the scope of the conversation, by only focusing on what they’re interested in, by focusing almost exclusively on what they want to talk about. This is fine whenever you are developing your own ideas, but I would have liked to see more diversity of thought through time. It doesn’t mean there is no diversity, just that I think they could have been even more inclusive and open.

But the IDW has been influential to me. I see it as a space to be able to pursue truth through conversation. Bret Weinstein does it by talking about biology in a variety of interesting contexts, while making it relevant to his experience at Evergreen College. Eric Weinstein often goes into unexpected territory on his podcast The Portal, and he ties a lot of it to his understanding of economics and physics and math. Jordan Peterson included his ideas about religion and society in the context of Carl Jung, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky, while other thinkers in the IDW such as Sam Harris have continued the conversation about religion, politics, and science that he’s been having for years.

To me the most important idea of the IDW is the ability to be able to talk about different, difficult things, things that don’t get a fair chance in our more traditional contexts, such as the mainstream media or college campuses or the workforce. It doesn’t have to be perfect to accomplish something beneficial and meaningful for society. While I don’t like every point that every intellectual in the IDW brings up, I still find it to be very valuable as an intellectual and cultural phenomena, and that is the way that it should be when pursuing truth and knowledge. I have never seen anything like this, in all honesty, in the time that I have lived here on this Earth. I had felt similar frustrations with the limitations of mainstream media, and had felt with my own personality and set of values and experiences, I could use an alternative mode of discourse, not even just for the people that I listen to, but also for myself and my own expressions and creativity.

I think the person that has most eloquently describe what the IDW can be, what alternative media can be, is Bret Weinstein. He often uses biology to be able to explain human behavior, tying it in to evolution. He shows that we can approach things open-minded and enthusiastic, and not worry immediately about whether our claims are perfectly intelligible or correct. I also appreciate Jordan Peterson and his almost stream of consciousness method, weaving in a variety of facts and speculations, to create a beautiful and dynamic picture and worldview. It seems that Eric Weinstein has been trying to develop some kind of a grand unified theory, and he is just barely beginning to express those ideas in the public sphere. They have been influential to me.

One of the things that I think that the IDW does very well, is separating themselves from hierarchies, and hierarchical systems. Not every intellectual in the group thinks about it this way, but there have been discussions between members of the IDW about hierarchies, and about being able to fit in those hierarchies, or go your own way. This resonates with me a lot, because I have had to go my own way, and find alternative modes of communication and expression, because I myself have not always fit into the hierarchy. People may be doubtful about what this hierarchy represents, but I think that the members of the IDW have expressed very effectively that the system we live in does reinforce itself through power structures, it doesn’t always have truth and knowledge as the most important value, and it can be rather disruptive of people’s lives and search for the truth. This is a very important point, when thinking about how knowledge and ideas are not the most important things to people. Bret Weinstein’s point has always been that he had very important ideas to teach about biology and life, but because of his experience at Evergreen, he was unable to do that. He was unable to perform his job as an educator, and share valuable knowledge, insight, and science.

One of the problems with the IDW from the perspective of its detractors, is often that the IDW focuses too much on the search for truth, rather than allowing a variety of different perspectives to take root. This is important when thinking about the politics of the IDW. While I do not always think that the IDW is correct on the politics, by anyone who I am listening to (Ben Shapiro comes to mind: I have never heard him express anything philosophical, truly philosophical, as he focuses exclusively on his beliefs and his political views), I think that they generally do a good job embodying an alternative to the way that we have always thought about politics and truth. They seem to want to be able to carve a space out in YouTube and the public sphere and their platforms, to be able to have hard conversations, and to be able to make the world better through truth and knowledge, and building on those things. The politics that I disagree with are more personal rather than philosophical, in that I feel as though the political reasons for doing something are important, but cannot be the only motivation for searching for truth. Obviously it is not the only thing to much of the group, but the political implications of events like Evergreen and postmodernism, creep into the conversations, and I don’t think that, at a certain point, they are as necessary. Jordan Peterson often went on about the radical left and the failures of Marxism and postmodernism, and while I find a lot of what Jordan Peterson has to say interesting, I think that we really need to understand the history of ideas to be able to understand why people think the way that they do, and why they grafted onto the politics that they do. Jordan Peterson’s criticisms often were crude and not nearly as thoughtful as most of the other things that he expresses.

The reason why the IDW has been influential to me, is because it is a space to be able to talk about very important ideas. The fact that many people can relate to these ideas, the fact that they can listen to the ideas, shows us that the hunger that people have is very real. The Intellectual Dark Web is by no means the only intellectual powerhouse in the world, but it certainly is one of the most influential in recent times, regardless of whether the first principles they use are correct, and like art and philosophy and literature, their ideas have risen to the surface of society and public discourse, and while the group itself may still be marginalized by the establishment, the speakers within the group have found a way to convey what they think is true, to convey their important principles, and to as always, build on knowledge. I think this is valuable, and my hope is that the Intellectual Dark Web can continue to develop and set a good example of what the conversation should be.

II Is Coming …

I’ve put a lot of work in my books. I’m pleased to announce that my poetry book II, which is the second book in my trilogy of poetry I, is coming your way very soon. Everything is getting finalized, and I should have a cover reveal and other surprises coming soon. So stay tuned. If you haven’t picked up your copy of I yet, I’ll leave the link below. A lot’s happening! Stoked!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1694876330/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i9

Practicing Gratitude

I’m grateful for my health.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and play guitar.

I’m grateful for family and friends.

I’m grateful for art, books, literature, music.

I’m grateful to be alive.

Hard times right now, but I’m hanging in there. One day at a time. One step at a time. Progress every day. I’m hopeful for the future, and I look forward to it.

Thanks for reading.

Phoenix

My Existential Concerns (An Essay)

I will admit, I have been worried lately. It is very hard for me to focus on the good in the world. Over the past few weeks, I have experienced the results of a pandemic and an earthquake with many aftershocks, and it has stressed me out greatly, whether I have noticed it or not.

Obviously, there are many things out of our control, yet I realize that I am experiencing a lot of emotions right now, and I’m thinking about my life.

I have existential concerns. Many of those. What is the purpose of life, amidst great suffering? I don’t know what is going to happen over the next few months. Are we going to be in lockdown for longer than we thought? Are more and more people going to die? Am I going to be able to stay grounded and strong amidst it all?

I don’t know. These are the things that I am trying to figure out. All of these things that I am experiencing in life have made me think of the larger, broader concerns, the bigger picture.

One argument that I have heard and often made myself, is that suffering is meaningful. I am conflicted about this belief and principle, even though I apply it, to try and understand when I myself suffer. I worry about it because, suffering can be so arbitrary and random. It isn’t as though our suffering occurs always to make us stronger, more thoughtful, more compassionate people. If we choose to become all of those things because of it, that is our choice, and it is a great way of dealing with adversity. But overall, suffering doesn’t have to be the only mechanism by which we become better people.

I have been very fearful, and for a variety of reasons. On reflecting on my life, I have realized that I have overcome a lot of things, and that is good, overcoming adversity is a very good thing. But these things also stay with you. Things that I have experienced, such as abuse at the hands of authority, or mental illness and afflictions, among other concerns, are not fair, these things are not fair. It isn’t as though this is what I should have experienced. Of course, no one knows what hand they are dealt, but the things that I have experienced have deeply wounded me, and even though I am strong because of it, I also have to acknowledge that, I have existential concerns, and life is very, very difficult.

This is something that I am allowing myself to acknowledge, that life is very hard. Life is often unfair. We do our best to make the best of it, and to be better people, but we are flawed as humans, and we live in a very broken world.

Of course there is more to life than the negative, and I have had very good experiences in life, and I have also been happy in my life. But I am also allowing myself to acknowledge that life is a very difficult thing. It is hard. It is not easy. Realizing this for myself has been very crucial to getting me to focus on what comes next and what I plan to do next.

I worry about a lot of things right now. There is so much that is up in the air, much that I can’t control, though I also realize that this has always been the case. The world is a strange place, and we don’t know why things happen the way that they do, and it can get very confusing sometimes. So I do my best to focus on the things that are in my power to change, and I try to let the rest go.

But these are my existential concerns. Life is a very difficult thing, and we are not always able to acknowledge this. Life often deviates, and if I have learned anything about existence, I have learned that it is often unpredictable, and it will challenge you significantly, whether you like it or not. When I think about the many things that I have experienced in my life, I realize that I have experienced things that I shouldn’t have, but that I did. Perhaps to some degree, I can argue a theodicy that allows me to say that the suffering brings purpose and strength of character, but there are times where I am unable to acknowledge this, probably because it doesn’t seem like it really matters, it just feels as though life hurts, and that is all that there is.

The main existential concern for me right now, is the way in which I realize that life is a difficult thing, and I am allowing myself to acknowledge this more. There are existential threats everywhere, there are so many things that could easily overturn our expectations and beliefs about life. Maybe that is inevitable, maybe that is just the way that it is, but I honestly don’t know. I would like to believe that we have some way of coping with these difficult things, though it is hard to know what that entails sometimes.

Overall, these are difficult things for me to think about. When I realize that my intense passion for life spills over into every domain of my life, where it feels like I am not in control, where it feels like there is nothing that I can do to improve my situation: this is something that I feel, and that is often very difficult for me to acknowledge. I think in general, I do have control over many things, and that is what I try to focus on. I try to realize that it is okay if my emotions sometimes spill over, because I have been under a lot of stress in my life, especially recently, with world events. Another existential concern that I can’t seem to shake, is that people do not understand my emotions, and they expect me to be so logical all the time, when I know that I can sometimes be honest, and not be aware of what I am thinking.

All of these things that I bring up are hugely significant to me, and in particular to my life. They are very real concerns. We could die, we could suffer: we could experience a lot of pain in life, whether physical and/or mental. And sometimes, we won’t be able to stop our own structures from crumbling.

While I am not specifically optimistic, I do think that we can rebuild that structure, and pick up the rubble and debris. We can continue to try. We can continue to gain the knowledge that we need, and continue to integrate our shadow and our thoughtful mind, into the way that we go about the world. But I think one thing that I have noticed as well, is that our defenses are very fragile sometimes. We are influenced by so many things around us, and this is crazy to realize, because it means that we don’t always know why we do what we do. I myself try to be responsible for my actions, but I can’t control the way that my mood fluctuates, I can’t control the way that my mind hurts: and all of that makes me realize that, I have to keep pushing forward, and believe that I can structure my life, and believe that the defenses will not collapse, if I am diligent and attentive. But it is an existential concern to realize that there may be times where I can’t fully understand myself, where I can’t fully stop all that I am feeling, and things spill over.

Life is hard. I am acknowledging this, it is important that I acknowledge it. Even though we are expected to be able to deal with things perfectly in society and not have any baggage, I know that in my life, I make many mistakes, many errors and miscalculations, and there are certainly things that I can do better at. It seems the best way through these existential concerns, is to be compassionate to yourself and to other people, and to try not to internalize too much of the pain, and to be able to move on through it, through all of it.

I know that I will get through what I’m experiencing. I know that this isn’t the end. And I believe that I take steps every day, good steps, to realizing what I need to, in order to move forward. Such things give me a lot of hope, and so that is what I focus on.