Journal Entry – Tue Oct 13

You know, sometimes people do things that make no sense to me. If you met your partner via an affair, i.e.: (s)he was married then got divorced or worse yet, killed their partner to be with you. Can/should you realistically expect that person to be faithful to you? I don’t understand that logic.

Do you ever think about being an animal, like if you were a roach, hippo, snake (venomous vs non-venomous) or an eagle, what would your work day look like with the current job you have, how would your personality change. I think it’s interesting how we project characteristics onto animals, and people for that matter.

If I were a roach or a snake, I’d definitely need a night job – I’d be unhappy with my current career. I don’t know enough about the goings and comings of snakes and roaches to develop an in depth personality – on the surface though, I think snakes would be chill, laid back, curious, easy going characters (kinda like Avery, André’s ball python). Roaches would be industrious, resilient and maybe a bit high strung or excitable.

Character development is not easy and if I want a good story, I also feel like I have to make sure the details are factually accurate. Did I bite off more than I can chew? Well, I plan to take it slow. And this time, I will see where the story leads me, like Sue, instead of working backwards from the end. AND it is hard to tell a story as a third party observer. PLUS I feel like I need to keep a list of info about my characters, I could easily forget how old I said Jamie was or what his dad does for a living or the dynamics of their relationship. I should probably do this before my story gets too long.

As a child, Jamie was quiet and awkward. After another worse than usual bullying incident in middle school, his parents decided homeschooling would be best. Harold, Jamie’s father, continued working at GM as the lead automotive designer for Global Cadillac. His mom, Ichika, quit her hospital administration job at SickKids to take on this new responsibility.

Harold would make the four to five-hour drive twice a week; Leaving Sunday evening, staying in Warren, Michigan for the week and return home Friday night. Jamie missed his dad and longed to be close to him, but all his life, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being an afterthought, an annoying fly buzzing about, trapped, and dying slowly, in the window of his father’s life.

With mom, it was different. Ichika and Jamie would go for long walks in neighbourhood parks and trails. She would tell him family stories and teach him about the importance of connecting with nature and taking care of the environment. Many of his school and life lessons occurred during those walks.

The incident that prompted the need for homeschooling occurred on a beautiful summer day, in the field next to Maple Leaf Public School because Jamie stood out, even when he desperately wanted to fit in.

To be continued …

Lecture 7: Dark Thoughts and Desires

Do you ever find yourself having dark thoughts and desires?

Carl Jung calls this the shadow self – this is the unconscious part of our psyche that contains our most base desires, which may reveal that we are not as good as we’d like to think. For Jung, you should work to bring this dark side to a level of conscious awareness so you can do something about it. Repressing your dark side is not recommended.

Intrusive and Murderous Thoughts – intrusive thoughts can be benign, like worrying about unplugging the iron or locking the door. You can also have thoughts about killing someone, which isn’t so innocent.

A study was done of 5000 people across the globe, 91% of men vs 84% of women have fantasized about killing someone somehow. In most of us, these dark thoughts remain mere thoughts because we can consider them for what they are once we have them. On reflection, we can dampen our violent urges and get ourselves under control before acting out on them.

The scientist thinks these numbers, although high, shows us that “killing is part of our fundamental nature” as a way of surviving throughout evolution and for reproductive competition (to be explored in a future lecture)

Daniel Wegner did a white bear study – usually, if you’re told not to think about something, that will be the very thing you think about. So, it is best not to repress or ignore these dark thoughts. Instead, you should explore them (which, to be clear, is not the same as acting on them. I’m not telling you to go indulge in whatever dark thoughts you have. Ok!)

Jena Pincott calls this the Hydra dilemma because suppressing a thought is like cutting off the Hydra’s head; many more will pop up.

Schadenfreude—finding joy in someone else’s misfortune—is a dark feeling. In fact, extreme versions of schadenfreude would probably count as evil. For example, the voyeur who does not bring about terrible suffering but who experiences high levels of pleasure while watching someone being tortured would be experiencing an evil feeling.

In the Buddhist tradition, thoughts and feelings like schadenfreude are seen as poisonous: They are an important part of the complex causes that trap us in the cycle of death and rebirth and cut us off from liberation and enlightenment.

If we shouldn’t try to stop dark thoughts we don’t feel comfortable having, what do we do?

Buddhist tradition has emphasized mudita or appreciative joy. Appreciative joy is finding joy in others’ happiness and success, especially the others you don’t like or feel indifferent towards. Mudita cultivates a sense of joy in others’ happiness and success in a way that battles both schadenfreude and indifference.

Another Buddhist technique associated with mindfulness meditation is to label each thought as a thought rather than trying to own it in any way. Another method is to write down your unwanted thoughts and throw them away. A third, proposed by a psychologist, is to play the thought out in as much detail as possible, writing down exactly what would happen if you were to follow-through.

What do our unwanted thoughts say about us?

Even the Buddha had dark thoughts and was tempted by Mara (the Buddhist version of the devil.) (But I don’t think all Buddhist scholars feel this way, I think some of them think the Buddha cannot have bad/evil thoughts or be tempted in any way) But the point being made in this lecture is that perfection is not an ultimate accomplishment but an ongoing achievement – a continuous journey.

“Buddha and Mara are figurative ways of portraying a fundamental opposition within human natures … When Buddha-nature prevails, fixations ease and the world brightens, revealing itself as empty, contingent, and fluid. When Mara-nature dominates, fixations tighten, and the world appears opaque, necessary, static.”

Stephen Batchelor – Buddhist scholar (Understanding the Dark Side of Human Nature)

There are these things called first and second-order desires. If I get the urge to eat gummy bears – that would be my first-order desire. However, suppose I genuinely don’t want to eat gummies or feel conflicted about eating gummies. In that case, this means that I don’t have a second-order desire to act on the first-order desire of eating gummy bears. When our second and first-order desires come apart, we are alienated from our first-order desire. Meaning that I don’t really identify with my desire to eat gummies because I am conflicted or ambivalent about what I want.

Officially, I can safely say that Tiger and DJ survived the move to the larger tank and I think DJ is doing better because he’s not upside down or sideways as much. I plan to get more fish this weekend. DJ is a spaz and Tiger is chill. The other day, DJ was going crazy, swimming about like a mad fish in the shipwreck and Tiger just kept doing his thing right beside him, he didn’t even move. It was fun to watch.

I have Russian dumplings in my freezer, they kinda look like tortellini – In addition to fried dough, I think everyone has some sort of dough wrapped filling stuffed with stuff 🙂

We’re not so different after all!

Feature Photo Credit: @kinek00 via Twenty20

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