Saturday, March 31, 2007

Forgetting my life

I started digging through my filing cabinet today, throwing old stuff away. The thing was full, and I'm moving out of state, so I need to lighten my load quite a bit.

Flipping through folders of business proposals, 401K brochures, copies of tax forms; I ran across evidence of things I did long ago that I barely remember and rarely think about. I'm 40 years old, which doesn't seem very old to me, but maybe that's because I forget so much. It's a little scary to throw some of this stuff out, knowing that without any evidence, I may never think of some of these old jobs again. Jobs that were my whole life at the time and that I obsessed about every detail.

I've never been good at telling my own story because I tend to think about the present and the future a lot more than I think about the past. So when someone asks, "what kind of jobs have you had" or "what did you do this weekend", I really have to stretch to remember because my rememberer doesn't get much exercise.

It's funny how quaint some of this stuff looks. I found a nastygram I got from the IRS in the early 90's, and it was printed on multiple pages with carbon in between, with holes along both sides, for feeding into a printer. And I found old resumes I typed on an actual typewriter. I found a letter from a professor mentioning that he'd found "interesting" comments in some code I'd written -- I'm meticulous now about not putting smart-ass comments in code, but at the time I guess I must not have been quite as professional about that kind of thing.

I should be more careful not to save things now, because this will be even harder when I'm 80. The pull of nostalgia will be stronger and I'll want to spend my days reading old blog posts and scrutinizing yellowed grocery receipts, longing for those exotic foods we used to eat back at the turn of the century.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Law of Spam Attraction

My recent post on The Secret and the Law of Attraction seems to have attracted the attention of a few people hawking related self-help products. They try to post comments which make a passing reference to what I said, then go on to plug their wares.

I'm forced to admit that maybe if you are very focussed on your goal of making money by selling a book, you might be more effective if you set aside socially beneficial, but limiting, beliefs like "I don't want to be an annoyance to people" or "it's rude to post lame comments as an excuse to insert marketing". This technique probably works, to the benefit of your bottom line, but to the detriment of the quality of conversation that goes on on the internet.

I said recently it might be OK if The Secret was urging people to get clear with themselves, by tempting them with material wealth. But this reaction makes me question that. If The Secret is "you can get rich by removing all mental resistance to your greed", then it might be better for it to stay a secret.

Friday, March 09, 2007

More on Bardo Barbie

The Last Psychiatrist makes use of the same quantum mechanics metaphor I did recently, and suggests that what we call "identity" is really just our own and other people's expectations of us, combined with our desire to live up to those expectations. Change those expectations, and you'll find yourself very motivated to change your behavior.

Can you change those expectations? Are you free to redefine yourself as The Last Psychiatrist claims? Can Barbie return to the Bardo at will? I've been perusing another blog called The Situationist, which makes the rather depressing argument that we're so influenced by our environment that it's a stretch to say we're free at all.

There's plenty of people out there struggling and failing to lose weight or fight addictions. Are they free to change but choose not to, or are they not free? Some people do change, others do not. I don't understand why.