Writing is hard.
19483 words

It's good: Zeal & Ardor – Wake of a Nation

I want to start keeping track of music that I listen to and like, so that I don't forget. I call it "it's good" because it's good music. Yeah. I might come up with a better name later.

Zeal & Ardor is notably less black metal on this short EP, but it's still impactful. At the Seams, for example, is an uncharacteristically pop-rocky tune, which makes its final black metal-tinged moments all the more impressive. The whole thing feels like a bit of a hodgepodge, but a very impassioned and relevant one. If anything, it's a clear reflection of the current socio-political climate in the USA (tl;dr: a narcissictic racist idiot is in power), which gives the off-the-cuff feeling of this EP a lot more validity.

I'm so happy to hear that they're not resting happy with the sound that they developed in the past. This is really good, really creative, and I'm curious what they'll do next! Let's just hope they won't go the Shining way.

(Also, I want to hear a Zeal & Ardor / Algiers collab so bad, you have no idea.)

24-09-2020

This might be as good a time as any to resume this bizarre unread blog. For I've read some books that, as Kant put it, awoke me from my dogmatic slumber, and I ache for a place to put my thoughts lest I forget them.

The two books are, somewhat unfortunately for this blog, both in Dutch. They are Theorie van de Kraal ("Kraal" is an enclosure for livestock) and Hints voor een diagnose. I should've probably read them in reverse order, because the former book deals with the current political climate and why we shouldn't submit to the violent tendencies of liberalism (which the writers put on the same spectrum as fascism), whereas the latter book deals with our current dominant mode of operation ("zijnswijze"), its philosophical origins and why we shouldn't submit to its supposed primacy.

So Theorie van de Kraal talks about liberalism and argues that it is a mediocre excuse for a societal structure at best. It presupposes, and therefore forces, people to be finished individuals: people with borders. There's no room for the idea that we might all be incomplete, imperfect, never finished. No, you're a human being with a definite form, and thus you get all the (negative) freedom to do what you want, as long as you don't cross someone else's borders. These borders are projected outwards by liberals in the form of country borders, and countries are another fiction similar to individuals. Liberalism then says that although people are finished individuals, they have unlimited desire: that's their nature. So they have to run, run together (con-currere) to produce ever more stuff, all the way into infinity or death, whichever comes first. And the insidious, or curious, thing about liberalism is that it feels like there's no alternative: of course there's an economy! Of course we need borders! Of course you have to participate to earn your rights! It feels like such a well-balanced system, where all that's needed is the occasional tweaking of some minor law here or there. But underneath the veneer lies the rot, the injustice, the violence, in the form of the people who are left behind, the homini sacri (by way of Agamben), the refugees and other people who somehow lost their 'inalienable rights'. So maybe there is another way, after all. A better way to live together. Maybe love is a better place to start than contract, or law, or sovereignty. Or perhaps the true starting point is to admit that I, like everyone else, don't know how to live peacefully. Not yet.

Hints voor een diagnose is comparably much drier, more technical, and not filled with the frantic urgency that a book published anno 2019 would have. Otto Duintjer takes Kants philosophy as an example of how western civilisation has been fixated on rationality to such an extent that it forgot that anything else exists. More specifically, we see our 'selves' as thinking selves. Being is thinking. And his dissection of every major facet of Kants work is very convincing: Kant clearly considers thinking-being to be the only mode of operation worth considering. Everything else is merely distraction, sidenote, collateral at best, actively immoral at worst. Duintjer argues that there are nevertheless other possible modes of existing. He goes into quite a few of them, but the one I found the most interesting is the mode of 'simply observing'. This is what is sometimes called 'meditation', and it means you simply observe with all your senses, but also your body and mind. Thoughts may still come and go in this mode, but instead of being carried away by them (and identifying yourself with them), you simply observe them; like clouds in the sky, they come and go. By turning off your seemingly unstoppable internal monologue, you gain access to very different kinds of existing next to and beyond the rational-empirical.

It's fascinating stuff, and it ties in wonderfully with Kraal: both implore us to see other ways of seeing the world and ourselves. To look beyond what's given to us. And Hints too talks about the violence of reason, just as Kraal describes the violence of liberalism. It too talks about how thinking is little more than endlessly running from place to place in your head, just as liberal society consists of endlessly running to produce. In fact, thinking is itself production: it uses sense data as raw input to be processed into coherent thoughts.

So what if we didn't have to produce? What if, instead of thinking about the future or the past, we would just sit down and observe? What if, instead of running from job to job, we would just experience life? Contentment seems to be the biggest threat to the primacy of both reason and liberalism. So let's be content a bit more often, shall we?

60.

I'll be honest, I'm way too lazy to write today. But since I just opened my editor and I already started writing, there's no going back now. Technically I already achieved my goal, since I can just click "submit", but let's not be an asshole about this. What I really want, is to have my 100 writings and do some fun statistical stuff with it. Like, I wonder what word I used the most in my writings. I could make one of these word webs. I hope it won't contain any swearwords. And the most common word is probably "I".  I could also make a graph of the length of each text, and see how it evolved over time. Maybe I got more lazy as time went on, and my texts became shorter and shorter. I thought I had more ideas to justify how excited I am about this, but I guess I'm just a dork. Oh yeah, I could also see what the most common two-word pair is, although it's probably "I guess". I'm predictable.

Today I've been looking for books for my studies. Specifically, for two versions of the same book, by Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In my class we're going to read it in German, and the punchline is that I don't understand German. So when she was done laughing, my teacher said that I should get an English or Dutch version to read for myself. I visited four book shops in my home city, and I could find not a single book by Kant. There's no Kant in the entirity of my city! Which is somewhat understandable: no popular book shop would sell his books, because they're unreadable and impossible to understand. No, popular book shops barely sell any primary philosophy at all. It's mostly popular and contemporary stuff, then some books about old writers, and occasionally a lost work by Aristotle or Hume or Hegel. So this means that I'll either have to get a Dutch version in a second-hand book store in Antwerp, or get an English one online. Maybe a Dutch one wouldn't be so bad (even though I secretly hate my own language), since my lessons will also be in Dutch. Switching between German and Dutch and English might be a bit too much of a good thing anyways. And I really do want to have a physical book, because reading from a screen sucks, and printing a pdf is just a bit too lame.

This has been another chapter of Adventures in Finding Books Nobody Wants. Tune in next week for more wacky adventures!

58.

When I was young(er), memes were, well, pretty obscure. I went to websites like Memebase and Failblog (which, by the way, still exist!), and later Encyclopedia Dramatica and, yes (I'm sorry), 4chan. All these were part of what I'll call "internet culture". Which, back then, didn't mean culture in general. There was actually a culture outside of the internet! And this internet culture, with its countless inside jokes, was, I'll be honest, for dorks. There was a very specific type of person who'd engage with it. Young, male, insecure and introverted are the first words that come to mind. These people wouldn't just walk up to other people to make friends. They were, generally speaking (and definitely speaking for myself) lucky to have friends at all. But online, there was this whole world of like-minded people, sharing jokes that no one outside of this circle would understand. You could tell random people at school "The Game", and none of them would know what the hell you're talking about. Of course, the joke was on them, since you lose The Game by thinking about The Game. So you just lost, as did I. Anyways, all of this is to say that there was a clear distinction between real life and meme life. So it's pretty crazy to see that today, memes have taken over the world. They're ubiquitous! And although they've grown in popularity and therefore lost their appeal as a secret (albeit stupid) language, they're still inside jokes. The boundary has just shifted. It's no longer just young insecure boys, it's an entire generation. And other generations are never in on the joke. I think that I'm currently on the border: I'm not up to date with the memes that are popular today, but I do still understand most of them. One effect of memes having become so widespread, is that most of them have become very lowest-common-denominator. They're easy to get, as they barely require any kind of inside knowledge. But old people (also known as boomers) severely lack any kind of knowledge of internet culture, so even these popular memes (sometimes known as normie memes) will fly over their heads most of the time.

Most of the insecure boys who were part of meme culture back in the day will have grown up by now. The ones who haven't are still on the internet, in the dark corners where no one dares to venture. 4chan has become one of these places. To be fair, it was always a pathetic place. The utter shittiness of 4chan was a meme in itself. Yet there was a kind of authentic shittiness that made it unique. Now, it's truly nothing more than a toxic breeding ground for the rare group of people who are both insecure and assholes. The offensive humor that the site used to be known for, has turned into just offensiveness. Some people still think it's funny. But I think that most of them have moved on. So have I, in case that wasn't clear. It was a strange time for sure. And it's even stranger, seeing a manifestation of that culture being so abundant now. Even if a lot of the memes right now are pretty crappy, it was probably the natural way for them to evolve. After all, the internet has become our entire lives. It only makes sense that internet culture takes over the new generation.

56.

I didn't write yesterday, but only because I was writing something else, something serious. And I just didn't feel like writing anything more. Oh well, why am I even making excuses for myself?

Today I found out that it is illegal to cycle together on one bike in Belgium. As in: a second person sitting on the back of the bike, legs to one side. Maybe I'm ignorant, but I find this very weird. In the Netherlands, carring someone on your bike is the peak of romance. The most famous scene from the most famous Dutch movie is just two people riding on one bike. Many odes to this way of cycling have been written. People have gotten angry over bike sharing services offering bikes without a rack on the back. There's multiple well-known songs called bagagedrager (a good word to practice your Dutch!). So as a Dutch person, I'm naturally soaked in the culture of the bike rack, and a happy participant in the two-people-on-a-bike tradition. But our southern neighbors apparently don't look so kindly on this behaviour. And I don't really understand why. Is it really so dangerous that it should be made illegal? Or is there some other reason? In any case, I don't think that we're going to stop doing it. It's a comfortable and romantic mode of transport, it requires almost no equipment and is carbon neutral! What more do you want?

Also, I just now realized that I've been doing this writing during a period of no lectures. My lectures have just started, and I can already sense that this writing is going to get a whole lot more tiring from now on. My studies consist of approximately 100% reading, thinking and writing, so this extra writing suddenly seems a bit... excessive. Oh well.

54.

It's strange how difficult it is for me to just enjoy a day with nothing in particular to do. I really think that feeling happy is the most important thing in life, and things like work and study are just ways to achieve it. So I don't think that I have to work every single day to have a good life. But still, when I have nothing to do, I can't really enjoy myself. Even though there's always something to do, and I would really enjoy these things in other contexts. For example, I like reading (to a degree), I like listening to music, I like watching movies, I like reading articles, yet spending a whole day inside only doing these things usually makes me feel uneasy. I wish I was able to just enjoy my time, regardless of how "productive" I think I am. Because this urge to be productive rarely leads to actual productivity anyways. It's usually just an unpleasant mental pressure that I'm constantly aware of. It's as if deep down, I believe that I have to do something useful before I can enjoy myself. And this goes for every single day of my life. I don't really believe it, but maybe my subconsciousness somehow does.

I don't really know what else to write about. I've kinda made a "rule" for myself, that every entry here should be at least a decent length. And now I'm looking at the above text, and I'm not satisfied. But maybe I shouldn't care. I never made a rule about how long these things need to be anyways. So why impose even more rules onto myself? Maybe I should just end it right here!

53.

So I'm becoming a tutor. Some days ago, I saw an advertisement on my uni's website, saying that they're looking for people who can tutor middle schoolers who have trouble with certain subjects. I applied, got a call, and I have my first lesson this Tuesday. So first of all: that went really goddamn fast. But also, I had an extensive introduction today, and that really helped. I now feel like I'm actually somewhat prepared and I somewhat know what to expect. Somewhat. I already know that in teaching, whatever you expect and whatever you prepare will not happen. So I know better than to count on any expectations too much. But it feels good to meet other tutors, to talk with experienced people, and to get help. I guess what I'm most excited about is that I'll have a chance to actually help out some people who might be in a difficult place. In Belgium, education inequality is very bad, which means that having a low socio-economic status is pretty much equal to having trouble in school. And since classes are big and full, the teachers don't have time or energy to look after every single edge case. The lessons must continue. So I'll have a small group, and I will be able to do exactly that: pay attention to individuals. Besides the subject itself (English, by the way), I'll also have to pay attention to their background and other things that might be playing a role in their lives. It might just be that there are things at the root of their difficulty that have nothing to do with English. I hope I can make a difference.

Oh also, I just saw Uncut Gems. I'm so very conflicted. I think I liked it, really liked it even, but despite myself. This is the opposite of a guilty pleasure. It's really not my kind of movie, and I didn't have a particularly good time watching it. But I just can't get around the fact that this movie is really goddamn good. So good, that it somehow didn't activate the many triggers that so many other movies did. Take Climax, a movie that's supposedly good. I profoundly hated it. I acknowledge that it's impressively filmed, but aside from the technical aspects, it's a shit experience that I don't wish on anyone. It's strongly goes against what I like about movies and why I value them. And Uncut Gems, in a lot of ways, is similar. It's one-note, it's frantic, it's miserable, it's people screaming constantly. And yet I have to admit: it's a great movie. Afterwards my girlfriend and I had an hour-long discussion about it. It's truly something. And I admit that begrudgingly.

51.

It's weird, when you try to be a good person and care about stuff, the number things you can do becomes smaller and smaller. The past few years of my life have been characterized by a growing awareness of the concequences of my actions. I stopped eating meat and eventually all animal products because of their environmental and ethical implications. I don't want to be a part of an ultra-polluting, animal-torturing industry, so I decided to stop supporting it. I also try to buy food locally and in-season, although that's not easy for me yet. I try to reduce my energy usage, use laundry liquids that aren't harmful to nature, avoid big chains that fuck over poor people, and a bunch of other small things. These are not really sacrifices. Most of them have become habits, and I enjoy the process of trying to live according to my own values. Yet there always seems to be more stuff to do. I love candles, for example, but they're almost always made of paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum, which means that I'm essentially burning fossil fuels in my home. And a common alternative, candles made from beeswax, happens to not be vegan. Vegan and nature-friendly candles happen to be ridiculously expensive. So here my convinctions clash not only with each other, but also with my comfort and my wallet.

But that's getting down to the nitty-gritty stuff. In the end, we're not going to save the planet by ditching candles. These things are relevant only if you want to make a big a change as possible. Still, there are some simple things that one can do to make a big impact. If you care about plastic pollution, you can stop buying fish, since fishing is the biggest source of oceanic plastic pollution. Also, ditching single-use bags, bottles and other pointless plastic packaging are easy changes. If you care about global warming, skipping beef is a simple fix. Deciding not to take the plane might be even better, depending on your habits. If global poverty is what concerns you, look into the most effective charities (GiveWell.org is a good place to start) and also look into the track records of big companies when it comes to their treatment of people in third-world countries. Re-using and buying second-hand seem to be good strategies for all of the above concerns. Drinking tap water instead of soda from plastic bottles or milk from cartons also solves multiple problems at once (health, plastic pollution and, in the latter case, animal cruelty).

That's it. I'm too lazy/tired to think today, so today's writing is this. A masterclass in being a hippie tree-hugging gutmensch. G'night.

50.

This is going to be a quick one. Because I want to do other stuff, and also because I once again have no clue what to write about. Surprise!

You know, sometimes I just feel like I have nothing of worth to contribute. That sounds much sadder than it is. Today, for example, I just feel like working, studying, but not writing. Because there's nothing in my head that feels worthy of being written down. And I don't want to pressure myself to have valuable thoughts every day. Some days are for reflection, for simply living, and not for outputting anything. So I'm treating this writing as therapy. Don't expect anything interesting here. If you're still reading, you should ask yourself why. What are you expecting? Something insightful? No way. I'm not writing anything of worth here today. Maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow might be the best, smartest, most life-changing piece of writing I'll ever write and you'll ever read. I might disclose the secrets of the universe. But today I'm definitely not doing that. I'm just rattling on, basically.

I think the world would be a better place if we all drank more water. For two reasons. One: people in the west drink way too much soft drinks and juice and milk and it makes them fat. Water fills you up, hydrates you and doesn't make you fat. Two: people in developing countries often don't have enough water, and if they'd just magically drink more water, that would be very good. I know that they can't, because they don't have clean drinking water. But I'm just saying, if. Oh, another nice thing about water, to add to the first point, is that it's the cheapest thing in existence, and pretty much everyone in the west can get it without packaging. Two more reasons why non-water drinks suck: they cost money and waste plastic. That also goes for bottled water, by the way. It goes double, actually, because the companies know that they're just taking a public good and turning it into a private good for profit, thus harming people's wallets and the environment. And people, somehow, are willing to spend money on these scams. I think, by the way, that tea also counts. Because tea is basically water anyways, except with some healthy antioxidants or whatever. I don't really know if tea is good for you. But they contain antioxidants (I think) and these are good for you (I think). Anyways, tea is still like 99% water, so even if the tea part was somehow bad, it would still be 99% good. That's more that can be said for soda and juice and milk. And tea is also cheap and almost waste-free. (Except if you buy individually packed teabags, I guess.)

I'm getting bored from my own ranting, so I'm going to call it a day. Day.

49.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but politics in the west is kind of a mess. And I'm not just talking about the US and the UK here, although these are two prime examples. No, but this is happening all across Europe too. It has become a worn-out cliche to say it, but I'm going to anyways: it seems that we're more polarized than ever. Or maybe the people aren't, but politics is. And it seems to me that people have stopped seeing the people with whom they disagree as simply people with different opinions. We now see these people as enemies, as people with fundamentally rotten goals for society. And excuse my French, but when and how the fuck did this happen? When you're on the left, you're almost obliged to see people on the right as racists, transphobes, and free-market fundamentalists. When you're on the right, you have no choice but to see people on the left as totalitarians, communists, and haters of free speech.

I think that the internet has played a big role in this process. The internet is full of places where people of a certain political orientation come together to make fun of others. But it's not just others, no, it's usually the extremists on the other side. All leftist platforms talk about is white nationalism, neo-nazism and Donald Trump. All right-wing platforms talk about are the extreme manifestations of socialism, feminism, marxism and other scary -isms. Clearly both of these form a tiny minority of the side they supposedly represent. Yet when you're on the internet, it seems like it's nazis versus marxists, and you have to pick a side.

What if we would acknowledge that most people actually have similar goals when it comes to politics? What we disagree about, is the way to get there. All except the most hardened extremists agree that freedom and equality are important, and that our politics should be designed to increase our indivudual and collective well-being. We need to rediscover that we're all humans and that, therefore, the things we want for are surprisingly similar. Our differences are relatively small and artificially exaggerated through the internet, and by parties who benefit from extreme division.

In a way, politicians themselves also benefit from sowing division. After all, it's easier to advertise yourself if you sharply distinguish yourself from your opponents. And if your opponents are literal nazis, you don't even have to be a great politician. You just have to be not a nazi. This is the lazy way out that, unfortunately, too many politicians are taking. We have to be bigger than that and stop rewarding the politicians who try to score cheap points by throwing mud on their opponents.

There is something to be said for progressive politics, but there is also something to be said for conservative politics. There is merit in emphasizing the individual over the collective, but also in emphasizing the collective over the individual. I don't mean to say that the truth is necessarily in the middle; I'm no enlightened centrist. What I mean is that we have to start our every thought and discussion about politics from the idea that our opponent might just have a point. That they're not automatically 100% wrong for disagreeing with you. This sounds so stupidly simple that it shouldn't even be worth pointing out, yet this exact assumption has been all but lost on the internet for some time now.

It's time that we set aside our tribal instincts and transform our politics into something that crosses boundaries instead of strengthening them. We have to start talking with each other if we want to stand a chance at building a better world.

48.

Today will be another no-backspacing day. Mostly because I have no idea what to write about and I'm tired, so I can al least challenge myself to keep writing without correcting anything. Also, since I'm tired, I expect this to be incredibly messy. Let's see. So far so good.

I don't really feel like once again talking about ethics or philosophy, although I'm still busy with that. I really feel like talking about some minor something. But what? It's fun to write about recognizable things, things of everyday life. But right now I'm a sleepy boy, and getting anything into my brain is difficult.

I can talk about music. Becayse why not. Because of a recent Adam Neely video, I started thingking (hehe) about what styles of mysic (hlelp, I can't type anymore) I can't tand (that's stand). I'm into quite a few sifferent styles of music, and I can tolerate even more. I think though, that there are a few things that I find hard to swallow. They're not styles perse, but rather individual artists. I don't feel too bad throwing them under the bus, since they're all big and rich. They can take it. So I can't stand Ed Sheeran. I just don't get the appeal of his half-cool half-sentilmental music. What am I supposed to get from it? Wow, that guy sure is emotional but also cool? Go away with your stupid guitar. I'd also cite his stupid lyrics here, but I can't remember any of them. Thats all the better for me. I also have a thing against Radiohead for some reason. Now they actually should be in my range of likable music. And most people I know like them. But I just can't the (I don't know why I typed "the", ignore that) stand their sappy, slow, swhiny sound. They do try to be experimental from time to time, but even that can't save their sound for me. Theyre just blegh in my ears. What's worse is that they're a band that everyone and their grandmas seems to like, because they somehow have the reputation of being "alternative". So music normies can listen to them and feel sophisticated, while music snobs can listen to them without shame. But I maintain that they're just a pretentious Coldplay. Just as annoying, and more artsy fartsy without a point to it.

But when it comes down to it, the artists that I dislike are artists that I rarely hear. Because I don't really put on regular radio, I never get confronted with the latest popular drivel that the big labels want us to consume. So when I don't like something, I imply (simply) turn it off. Hating stuff is a waste of time anyways.

46.

I find it difficult sometimes to balance my beliefs and being a nice person. For example, I try pretty hard to limit my usage of plastic, especially one-time-use plastics. They're the least useful and the easiest to avoid. Not using plastic bags, for instance, is incredibly easy, and it makes a real difference, because these bags are made of low-grade plastic that's (almost) impossible to recycle. So my difficulty, then, comes when other people do insist on using plastic bags. I generally try to live in a way that lets other people live their lives the way they want it. But I also see  certain things as so obvious and simple that I find it hard to let them slide. For me, using plastic bags when they're not necessary is hard to accept. But I think that it's hard to bring it up without sounding like a jugdmental asshole. And I really try not to be judgmental. I know that people have their own lives and their own priorities, and I can't judge them for not caring about the same things that I care about. Yet with something like plastic bags, I feel like a short conversation would be enough to convince most people that they really are not worth using. Yet I avoid these conversations for the sake of being pleasant. Egh.

Also, I've noticed over the past few days how annoying a bad or slow internet connection can be. And I think that's a bit bizarre. I mean, My generation is the first to see an internet connections as something we need. Every single generation before us either didn't have the internet at all, or saw it as a fun or interesting thingy; definitely not as a central part of their lives. To be so annoyed because of a suboptimal internet connection is to see a mirror image of yourself, to meet yourself in a way you don't necessarily want. We, as in my generation and those after it, might be developing a tiny internet addiction. And as it stands, I don't think that's a good thing. Of course I don't deny that the internet can be absolutely wonderful. But most of all, it seems to be a distraction. That's not surprising, considering that most online companies earn money through advertisements, which means having to gather clicks, which means having to get people's attention in any way possible. Distraction, for them, is the name of the game. Distraction equals money. So the internet, as it stands, is basically a distraction machine. And our phones are the perfect accessory to that machine. They're things we keep with us literally all the time, that vibrate any time anyone wants our attention. How much more distracting can it get? We really need to deal with this fact of our society, and find a way to keep the online distraction to a minimum, if we want to keep on living happy lives. I'm very convinced that attention breeds happiness. So lack of attention (in other words: distraction) breeds unhappiness. I don't really have a solution for any of this. I can only say that there's a problem. So there you go, you're welcome, world.

40.

It's such a shame that my best thoughts come to me when I'm meditating. You know, the one moment when you're supposed to be free from your thoughts. I was thinking about the subject for my research paper, having all kinds of good ideas for it and imagining writing them down and constructing a first paragraph for them. Then I was thinking about how it's such a shame that all my best thoughts come to me when I'm meditating. I thought that this would be a good thing to write in my daily writing. I missed the two previous days, after all. And I could write about the ideas that I had while meditating. And make it kind of an ironic thing, by also referring to the fact that I thought about it being a shame that all my best thoughts come to me when I'm meditating. My one moment of quiet of the day looks like this. That's me, I guess.

So about these writings, I seem to be missing more days than not. So maybe this whole daily writing thing is just not for me. Not that I want to stop doing it, I really like these writings. But having the obligation to do them every day is a bit... straining I guess. I've already subconsciously accepted that I'm not going to do it every day, so who would I be fooling if I'd keep on thinking that I will? Anyways, maybe I'll just keep going like this until I hit 100 days, and then start filling up the gaps. That way I can get to a proper 100 writings without forcing myself to write every day. I do love the idea of writing every single day, and I think for a lot of people (writers, for instance) it can be a real help. But I'm not really a writer. If anything, I want to write about philosophy. And that hasn't really been a problem for me. I just start writing and nothing can stop me. Now if I'd ever want to pick up fiction writing, that would be a different story. I'd need all the motivation and encouragement and gimmicky self-help stuff I could get my hands on. But philosophy flows from me like a river. (See, I use hideous metaphors like that! Me writing fiction would be a disaster.)

Also, it's a miracle, but I think I finally discovered the joy of cleaning up! Now I don't mean that I enjoy the cleaning up process so terribly much, but I do see now that living in a clean place is a joy, and that motivates me to clean up. I have a terrible habit of getting grumpy whenever anything cleaning-related needs to happen, and I think I'm now finally breaking through that habit. Cleaning is not useless!

Oh yeah, and my girlfriend gave me a very good tip recently. (This writing is, as you can probably tell, just a ramble.) You see, I'm not a very focused worker. I look with great admiration at the people who can work in a structured manner, with blocks of working and blocks of break. That's not me. I get to work and always spend the first ten minutes doing something else. My brain is soft and weak; I can't get it to work like a machine. It's distracted all the time and it wants things all the time. But anyways, the tip that she gave me is: every time you get distracted by something, do nothing instead. So every time I want to open Reddit or Facebook, I have to resist and do nothing instead. Just take in the moment and go back to work when I feel like it. I think this is smart, because giving in to distractions means losing the momentum and the moment of what you're working on. Every transition from distraction back to work takes time and energy, and it's incredibly wasteful. When you do nothing instead, you keep the thoughts within reach, instead of purging them in favor of cat videos and stupid memes about obscure subjects. So that's what I'm going to try doing from now on. Not resisting the getting distracted, but resisting the distraction. I can stop working all I want, but I can't allow myself to do other stuff instead.

37.

I should really start writing earlier in the day. When I postpone it to the end of the day, I not only have it on my mind for the whole day, which is annoying, but I also tend to neglect it entirely. Besides, doing routine stuff early gives me a boost for the whole rest of the day, which is nice.

I recently had a naive thought. I was side-eyeing a video (I wouldn't call it watching, I was half-awake and still in bed) where feminists had a discussion with men's rights activists. It was quite heated although not uncivil, and I started wondering: why is gender such a difficult subject for people? What is there to discuss? Aren't we all just people and shouldn't we just treat each other as people, end of story? I know, naive. First of all, because I know and acknowledge the many difficulties that women and men face because of their gender. Gendered expectations are a thing, and (speaking just for myself here) I know that even men face them. Men are expected to be strong and stoic, to be the rock that the woman can rely on, to be the breadwinner, the rational one, the dependent one. Women, of course, probably face greater problems, yet I don't want to go into that too deeply because I don't have any first-hand experience with that. Nevertheless, I do hate the expectation of wearing make-up every single day. Screw that, seriously. These expectations are problematic and deserve attention. Anyways, my thought was naive for another reason too. I was actually presuming that I'm somehow not a proponent of these expectations and stereotypes. As if I see all people as people only, regardless of gender, age, skin color, clothes, etc. That might be an ideal, but it's not reality. I do, subconsciously, react differently to women than to men. I like to think that I have no biases or stereotypes, but I don't think that's really true. And I'm not saying that that's a problem necessarily. After all, biases are just shortcuts for our brain. Processing every person as if it's the first person you ever see would be exhausting, it would fry your brain in a matter of minutes. So we need these shortcuts. We just have to make sure that these shortcuts are helpful and humanizing, instead of overly reductive and harmful. That "just" in the previous sentence is a very, very optimistic "just", because this is not easy at all. This is basically what the entire project of tolerance and openness is about. Rewriting our personal and collective biases so that they're not harmful to large groups of people. I do see that most people are really trying, though, and that makes me happy. I'm also trying.

Yet I wonder something else. Can we actually change our way of thinking so that we don't divide the world into 'us' and 'them'? Can we make the entire world one big 'us'? I'm an optimist and an idealist, so I'd really like to think that we can. But it would be an enormous shift. For our entire evolution, from when we still had fins until the present day, we've learned to form groups of trusted individuals and to distrust everyone else. Ingroup good, outgroup bad. Those ingroups have been gradually expanding over the course of history; we could now say that our entire country is our ingroup, and Europe is even attempting to make the entire continent our ingroup. Yet it's still an ingroup, and every ingroup is defined by contradiction to the outgroup. What if there is no more outgroup? Can there still be a group? Can we unite as the entire population of planet Earth, if we have no one to fight? Us against what? Space? Greenhouse heat death? That's the kind of shift that's drastically needed, in my opinion, if we are to truly tackle the problems facing us today. But if we can... I'm really not sure.

As a start, I can recommend everyone to watch the short documentary The Overview Effect. It shows that astronauts who have gotten a look at Earth from space, start seeing Earth differently. They realize that Earth is one, and that it is tiny and so so fragile in the vast nothingness of space. Let that be a start.

35.

Despite writing here instead of studying yesterday, my exam still went well! I didn't nail everything, but I had an answer for every question and I think I screwed up quite little. I really liked that I could use not just my knowledge from the course I was taking the exam from (ethics), but also from other courses and even from my own life! There was one particular question that I knew the answer to because I had listened to a podcast with Peter Singer a week earlier. I had no idea that subject was in the ethics course, but I was pleasantly surprised to know the answer. It's such a pleasure to apply knowledge from different places like that. That also means that the things I'm learning at my uni (and even outside of it) are coming together quite nicely, which is very important to me. Studying shouldn't just be gathering pieces of information. It should be a process of building a structure, a building of some kind. Especially in philosophy this is absolutely necessary, because every part influences everything else. And if you take philosophy seriously like I do, you need to think about the implications of what you learn for your own life, your political views, how you see the world, et cetera. And I think that very little can change the way you see the world quite like a philosophy study, because in it, you question all the concepts that you and other people use to make sense of the world. If you say that freedom is important, a philosopher will ask "oh yeah? what is freedom?" and you'll either have a great discussion or you'll walk away annoyed. As for myself, I already ask myself these questions constantly, so studying philosophy is not any more exhausting for me as regular life is. And I think it's important to question the concepts that you use to build the world around you. It's important to seriously consider what a good life is, what the point of politics is, what free will means, what science can tell us, what responsibilities we have to other people, because one way or another, you answer these questions anyways. Every single person answers these questions by thinking and acting in a certain way. In philosophy, you make these questions tangible and tackle them as best you can.

Whew, I've been writing an awful lot about philosophy lately. Let's try something else. Uhm. Food. Maybe not. Oh yeah, my girlfriend and I found out about a vegetables subscription service today, and I think we might go for it. You pay to get a weekly (or bi-weekly) crate of veggies which you pick up, and they also include a recipe in case you have no idea how to use the things you got. I like it, because the price is good, the veggies are local if possible, and they're always fairtrade and biological. I don't really like buying from supermarket chains anyways, even though I'll admit that Lidl generally does have good and well-priced fruits and vegetables. But there's something icky about funneling money to a guy who already has so much that he doesn't know what to do with it. These kinds of chains and these kinds of people don't need my money. They want it, sure. But I don't know them. I don't think that they care about me, or my experience in their shops. What they care about, is my money. So I try not to care about them or their shops. That's why I prefer to buy from a small-ish shop called Pit Stop. I don't actually know much about it, other than that it caters mostly to muslims, but I generally like their produce. They offer a lot of stuff in bulk that other shops don't (like olives!), and they have huge packages for a lot of stuff (beans, rice, sambal (!)), which means less waste. Still, I'd prefer to get my veggies from the subscription service, since it means local and biological produce.

... Maybe writing about something other than philosophy was a mistake after all. Vegetables, really?