Fighting Battles Against The Pessimism of My Friends and Family

Been isolating for most of the last week or so even though I desire to have conversations and interact with people again.  Yet a paranoid part of me is fearful of socializing.  When I make it a point go out of my apartment and socialize, I am usually met my irritable and angry people.  Many of my fellow tenants are in foul moods, even more so than usual.  That’s why I don’t socialize with my neighbors.  The very few times people make it a point to interact with me, they are usually upset over often trivial tripe.

I admit I wasn’t raised to be an optimist.  I almost never heard anything positive about life or the world in general even while growing up in a prosperous family during the prosperous 1990s.  Now it just seems like everyone is wanting to fight over the pettiest and stupidest nonsense.  I see it in my friends and family social media posts every day.  I hear it almost every time I call friends and even family on the phone.  I hear from my neighbors every time I step out of my apartment to run errands or even pick up my mail.  And I am burned out.  I’m burned out on all socializing.  I just want to stay home, read my books, and mess with my computers anymore.  I have no interest in interaction with rude, angry, and stupid people.  And people think I need to be on anti psychotic medications.  There seem to be plenty of people out there who probably could stand to be too if their rhetoric in public conversation is any indication.

I am not a optimist by nature.  I used to be a real pessimist, especially in junior high and high school.  I had friends and school mates, when fed up with my moaning, would say things like “drink yourself happy like everyone else” or “snap out of it.”  One of my buddies in college, when I was complaining about constantly being rejected when I asked women on dates, had enough and asked, “Zach, do you believe in God?”  I said, “Yeah”. He then answered, “If God wants you to have a woman in your life, he will miracle you one in a way even you can’t mess it up.  If not, well nothing you can do about it.”    Well, I never did have much success with dating, but I am better off on my own most of the time considering the circumstances.

Over the years of observing things happen in the world and in my own life, by the time I hit my early thirties I came to acknowledge a great truth about life in general.  This truth is that most of what we worry about almost never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  Even the tragedies of life, like a range fire, can provide nutrient rich soil for new life and possibilities.  I am actively looking for the positives that will come from our current state of affairs in civilization as a whole.  I saw the UN’s report on climate issues stating that we have only a generation or two to start cleaning things up or we’re going to have to deal with serious consequences.  I understand that many of my friends and readers don’t accept the science behind climate change, but they don’t have to.  Most scientists, many business leaders, and people that can and will make a difference do and are making changes as I write this.  We don’t really need even the majority of people to approve of the changes that are being made.  Sheesh, it was only a small percentage of the population in the American colonies who fought in the Revolution against the British.  And I must say, I’m glad they did.  It was only a small portion of the population back in the late 1800s who wanted to enact voting rights for women and get rid of child labor.  It eventually happened.  I’m glad these things happened.  People who fight against scientific, social, humanitarian, tech, etc. progress usually find themselves on the wrong side of history.  Change is happening all around us.  It can be delayed but it is inevitable.

I’m tired of pessimists in general.  I’ve been surrounded by them my entire life.  I was forced to listen to them growing up because we had no internet to expose the facts and because, well, I had no choice in the matter of who I socialized with growing up in such a small village.  Before the internet, all I knew about of the outside world was what CNN and Fox News bothered to tell my naive Nebraska farm boy ears.  And once I started looking around and seeing most of the predictions of hell on earth not coming to fruition, I became quite angry.  I had spent years not being told what was going right.  I could have made different plans had I had all sides of what was actually going on, not just the bad.  I essentially wasted my teens and most of my twenties, the years of my physical prime, making decisions made from one sided information.  And due to this righteous indignation, I started searching out what was actually going right.

It is tough trying to break my friends and family’s myths about how bad life sucks.  I am almost always met with thunderous silence or told outright that I am a liar.  And it’s tough to remain optimist when few others even try to.  But, let’s face it, the crowds are almost always wrong.  The best thing to do in most cases is the opposite of what everyone else is doing.  Wisdom of crowds my foot.  But I will continue to attempt to break the myths my friends and family cling to, at least the myths that say life sucks.

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Optimism for The Future

Change of subject for this post. The summer is all but over.  And it doesn’t bother me much.  Summers have been my toughest times of year since I started having problems with mental health in my late teens.  I just don’t do well in hot and humid weather.  I have no doubt that being overweight only makes this worse.  But I have lost some weight this summer as I’m down a full shirt size.  I have no delusions that I’ll ever be able to run a marathon but I would love to be in better health again.  There is just so much cool and amazing things happening in science, technology, medicine, humanitarian efforts, and even geopolitics that I would love to hang around for quite awhile just to see what happens.

In spite of our problems and divisions there really are some cool things happening even right now.  Just a few days ago I read an article that stated the two Koreas are talking about placing a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.  I would have not imagined that to be possible even five years ago.  I saw another article about a Japanese businessman who’s going to literally fly to the moon and back via SpaceX in 2023, also a few days ago.  And I have little doubt that the first people to set first on Mars have already been born, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do go there within 20 years.  As bad as the hurricane has been to the East Coast, at least we can organize relief and rebuilding efforts more rapidly than we could even fifteen years ago.  Pretty much every space agency in existence is making plans to set up bases on the moon.  Cryptocurrencies have filled in the gaps in some nations where the traditional economy is falling apart.  Kind of kicking myself for not buying into bitcoin when it was only a couple hundred dollars a shot.  Another statistic I read a few days ago that gives me hope is that people that can read are reading three times as much as their predacessors in the early 1980s did.  Granted most of this reading is online articles, tweets, and conversations with friends and colleagues.

Advances are coming in fast and often.  And as connected we as a species and civilization are, they aren’t going to slow down anytime soon.  Get used to it.  Adapt or get left behind.  I may find it frustrating to listen to people talk about the ‘good ol’ days’ but I am also amused when I hear griping about the present and talking how there’s no hope for the future on forums that didn’t even exist twenty years ago.  I might take these types seriously if they were moving into Luddite communes or Amish villages.  I for one say ‘screw the good ol’ days, they weren’t all that great’, especially if you were a racial, religious, or sexual minority, woman, or a child.  And I hope we keep advancing so should I find myself in the 2050s as an old man pining for the 2010s, the youngsters will tell me where go with my nostalgia.  And I hope some of these youngsters can tell me off from a lunar or Martian colony or via computer based telepathy or in full emersion vertical reality.

I am convinced some really cool things are going to happen within our lifetimes, especially if we don’t anything really stupid as a civilization that we can’t easily undo.  As much attention as we pay to national politics, it isn’t the politician who’s going to make a cool reality possible.  The best they can do is pass favorable laws and step aside.  Science the %*&@ out of our problems, to quote ‘The Martian.’ Otherwise other peoples in other nations will bypass these nations and make advances possible.  America and Western Europe are no longer the only shows on Earth, and no amount of whining, politicking, and trade wars are going to change this.  And why not let everyone have a shot at some prosperity?  The sooner we as a species realize that we share the same planet, breathe the same air, drink the same water, and that a species at war with itself is doomed, the better.  At this point, we can achieve some cool stuff as long as we don’t seriously screw up.  We don’t seriously mess up, it won’t be a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’  And I feel extremely privileged to be alive to witness these transitions even if the ride gets bumpy and irritating at times.

Friday in Mid September

I’m still sleeping more than normal.  I usually sleep ten to twelve hours a night now.  But when I’m not asleep I usually want to be outside and chatting with other residents and friends.  I can say, at least for now, I’m not as annoyed by small talk and complaints as I have been in months past.  I don’t know if it’s the healthier diet or getting more sleep that’s helping me feel less easily irritated.

I’m also finding I just don’t play computer games for a few hours at a time anymore.  I’ve recently had entire days I don’t touch the gaming computer.  That’s another positive change I’ve noticed.  Sometimes I’d play games to escape from rude and irritable people.  But I’ve been less irritated and less bothered by rude people lately.

I’m still not going to engage in political discussions or sports fan forums.  I’m on too much of a winning streak to risk jeopardizing it or trivial nonsense and tripe. I mean, does anyone really change their minds on issues because of memes, being name called, being trolled, or even by statistics?  Sounds like pointless posturing and mindless tribalism as far as I’m concerned.  Besides, for as much as these things get reported on, they really don’t make as much of a difference as people would like you to believe.  That’s why I focus on science, tech, and medical advances.  It’s too easy to get discouraged from the news as they only report on a fraction of a fraction of what’s truly going on.

I still read a lot.  Been kind of lazy about my audiobooks.  I’ll pick those up again in time. Things like that come and go in cycles.  But I have been socializing and reading more often.  I let my mind wander more often and just let it go off on tangents and just see what ideas I can come up with.  I’m looking for ideas for new poems or even ideas for novel drafts.  As much as I love nonfiction, I really don’t have the credentials to get published as a nonfiction science or mental health writer.  Besides, I’m having more fun and getting better audiences with this small blog than I ever did the traditional writing route.  We are indeed living in some amazing times my friends.  It’s sometimes too easy to forget this.

Changes Over One Lifetime

I’m going off subject for this post.  Today, June 28 2018 would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  She died of a stroke in 2015 at the age of 97.  Fortunately for our family, she was very sharp mentally right up until her stroke.  She would often talk about the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime.  Grandma Foster could just as easily recall events from her teenage years during the Great Depression as she could events that happened within the last week.  In some ways, she was like having a local historian in our family.

Today I would like to talk about some of the changes that occurred since my grandmother’s birth that early summer day in 1918.  One hundred years isn’t really a long time in terms of our recorded civilizations, let alone on the time frame of the cosmos.  But we have seen many changes.  And I would like to mention some of these.

In 1918, when my Grandma Foster was born, World War I was still going on.  The Spanish Flu Pandemic was at it’s hight.  The old Ottoman Empire was still in existence.  The Russian Revolution was going on.  China was still a very poor country.  India was still a possession of the British Empire.  Much of Africa was divided into European colonies.  Automobiles had been available to the working and middle classes for only a handful of years.  Industrial magnates like John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, etc. were still alive.  It was mostly urban areas in America and Europe that had electricity.  Coal and steam powered almost all industrial processes.

Technologies that my Grandma Foster saw rise during her lifetime included regular radio broadcasts, anti biotic medications, hybrid crops, nitrogen based chemical fertilizers, radar, reliable rockets, nuclear weapons and energy, jet propulsion, reliable airline travel, television, computers, more fuel efficient automobiles, plastics, reliable contraceptive pills, super highway systems, easily available credit cards, lasers, the beginnings of space exploration, organ transplants, test tube children, cellular phones, active searches for alien intelligences beyond our solar system,  high speed railways (granted not so much in America as in Europe and East Asia), the internet, near free information via wikipedia, near free self broadcasting via youtube and podcasting, social media, the beginnings of inexpensive renewable power, the rise of automated drone technology, the rise of robotics, the human genome project, the beginnings of affordable electric automobiles, the discovery of anti matter, and the early research into fusion power, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Cultural changes my Grandma Foster saw witness to involved women’s suffrage, the beginning and end of Prohibition, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, World War II, the decline of children in the work force, the increase of women in the work force, the assassination of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of rock and roll music, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the turmoil of the 1960s, the rise of cable and satellite television, the first people on the moon, the fears of nuclear war and it’s after effects, the popularization of hip hop music and urban culture, the launch of space probes to almost all of our solar system, the Hubble Telescope, the popularization of science fiction and futurism, the rise of awareness of industrial pollution and the beginnings of the efforts to undo the effects thereof, the AIDS epidemic, the end of colonialization, the rise of China as an industrial and scientific power, the rise of the United Nations and globalization, the beginnings of the decline of nationalist furvor that was the norm for most of civilization, the rise of the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the War on Terrorism, the first black man to be U.S. president, the first women Supreme Court justices, the beginnings of the declines in the marganializations of religious, sexual, cultural, etc. minorities, the beginnings of plans to colonize space, the realizations of the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence, and the rise of better treatment for the disabled, mentally ill, and pretty much anyone who didn’t conform to the average norm.

All of this I mentioned was just in the lifetime of someone I was blood relation to.  As you could see, the rate of changes only accelerated as time went forward.  I’m sure there are changes I forgot to mention.  My grandmother was old enough to remember people who were Civil War veterans and probably met people who were born into slavery or at least their children.  I write all of this to state that yes, the world changes over time.  People change over time, and not just because older generations die off and younger ones take their places.  I think of some of the changes I’ve seen just in my 38 years living as a human.  I really don’t recognize much of what I saw in the mid 1980s now and some of the attitudes and practices of even my childhood has me wondering “what were we thinking” and even “what was I thinking.”  Change is constant.  Change is inevitable even if not predictable or even in coming.  Or as one science fiction writer put “The future is already here.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.”

Optimism and Good News

Been spending more time inside lately.  We’re currently in the hottest parts of the summer.  So far I’m managing alright.  I think it helps that I’m getting enough sleep and keeping my mind occupied through computer games and educational programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  I had to get a new phone a few days ago after my old one quit working.  So far it’s doing everything I need done.

In spite spending so much time indoors and not socializing much outside of internet and phone, I’m still feeling pretty decent.  I’m feeling actually quite optimistic overall.  Watching science programs and programs about what is actually going right in civilization while avoiding the negativity and background noise can do that to even a hardened mentally ill person like myself.  I do find it tragic that the advances in science and humanitarian efforts aren’t given more publicity in the media.  I get it that mass media isn’t a public service and they have to draw and audience like every other business.  And nothing draws a human’s attention like fear and anxiety.  There is actually far more going on right than most people will ever know.

Last Christmas I did a piece on science and tech advances that happened just in 2016.  I’m going to do this again at the end of 2017.  I really don’t think people pay enough attention to what’s going on in the realms of science, tech, and humanitarian efforts.  I wonder how many people know that over 90 percent of people in Africa have access to cell phones.  Granted the same CNN article states that only 63 percent of people in Africa have access to piped water and only 30 percent to flushing toilets.  But both of those numbers are better than many people in the developed world thought they would be.  And this article was written in 2016.

When my parents were first married in the early 1970s, many people were worried about overpopulation and as a result my parents decided to have only two kids.  Fast forward 45 years and many countries, especially in the developed world, are actually experiencing decreasing populations.  USA would have the same problem if it wasn’t for many immigrants still wanting to come here.  The fears of overpopulation didn’t come to fruition because as people became more prosperous and better educated, they started having fewer kids and investing more in the one or two kids they did have.  The population is still growing, yes, but that is far more because people no longer die like flies than breed like rabbits.  Smallpox is eradicated and polio is all but eradicated.

There were similar fears about acid rain in the 1970s.  But we as a species, especially scientists and engineers, saw that this could become a problem eventually and we adapted.  As a result, the worst didn’t happen.  Right now there are fears about climate issues and what could happen within the next several decades.  But few people realize that air pollution has actually gone down in many countries and industrializing countries like China and India are going forward with non polluting energy sources now that the prices are more competitive with traditional fuel sources.  My country may have pulled out of the Paris Agreements, but that was my federal government and not individual peoples or state governments.  And in the USA, regardless of individual political beliefs, most people do not approve of the leadership our federal officials are offering.  So many state and local governments are taking it on themselves to develop non polluting energy sources.  I may live in a state where many people aren’t sold on the sciences being climate changes but that doesn’t stop people from putting up wind generators and solar panels.  In my own family, my parents have been using solar panels since the 1980s.  Many people don’t know that the largest state for wind power generation is Texas, a traditionally oil rich state.  Just because a person may not be sold on the hard science doesn’t mean they can’t or aren’t doing their parts to bring about less toxic energies and use less fuel.  Can you imagine how bad pollution and oil issues would be if we had the same cars from the 60s and 70s?  When my father was in the military, he had a street racer car that got less than 9 miles to the gallon in gas.  Pickup trucks now get much better than that, let alone family sedans or smaller cars.  My dad said about his hot rod, “it would pass everything on the road besides a gas station.”  Science is saving our bacon right now, more so than governments or most other established large institutions.

I’m also encouraged by the prospects of private individuals and companies taking on space exploration.  We aren’t living my parents’ space race when it was just Russia and USA doing the work.  There are many things I am encouraged and optimistic about.  But I did not get this way getting information just from traditional sources.  I had to use search engines.  I had to go to science specific websites and journals.  I had to specifically look for the science information because most of it wasn’t being reported in traditional mass media.  But traditional mass media is in decline and will eventually break apart if they don’t adapt to the new realities.  And that doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.  I’m tired of hearing about what is going wrong all the time.  I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.  I want to know what’s going well and what we’re improving.  I have dig deeper than most people, but I am finding out some of what’s going right.  Maybe more research labs and universities should hire publicity firms to better promote what’s going on.  I think many people would be interested providing the information is presented in the right ways.

Socializing, Family, and Facebook

The Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and now the weather will definitely start getting hot soon.  I’ve been feeling stable but on and off depressed for months, especially since the middle of winter.  I think some of this depression comes from just being so lonely all the time.  There are only so many books I can read before I’m burned out.  Fortunately I was able to see a couple cousins and their families for the afternoon over the long weekend.  I hadn’t seen either cousin in a long time.  It was fun catching up with them.  First prolonged intelligent conversations I had in months.

I gets bouts and depression and loneliness more frequently than I used to.  It doesn’t help that I don’t really have any friends in my apartment complex anymore.  It also hurts that I had major falling outs with a few old friends that I had known for several years.  One of these friend couldn’t respect the fact that I’m not working a regular job and spending most of my time alone.  This person also thought I’m wasting my time with this blog.  Well, I sent that friend packing.  If a person can’t respect my decisions about work and how I spend my time, then we can’t be friends.

Another friend and I had a falling out over politics.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who can claim that these days.  But I just can’t stand how divisive and hateful modern politics has become.  It didn’t used to be this way.  Besides, political fan boys on all sides seem to be too blind to realize that modern politicians don’t care about the voters unless said voters are lobbyists or big money donors.  The way some of my friends and family post on Facebook, you’d think they were getting paid for every post about politics they put on their sites.  Besides, does anyone change their thinking because of these posts.  It’s like watching monkeys at the zoo fling manure at each other but not nearly as entertaining and far less civilized.  I’d quit Facebook and twitter if they weren’t the only means I had to keep in contact with most of my friends and my key promotional materials for this blog.  Mark Zuckerberg really has a business monopoly that would do any 19th century robber baron proud.

The biggest reason I don’t post about my particular beliefs is that, well, no one group reflects what I value.  When it comes to social issues, it depends on the issue.  When it comes to having a good military, I’m in line with some Reagan era Republicans even if I’m not as interventionist.  When it comes to curbing the abuses and excesses of Wall Street and big business, I’m almost as militant as any Occupy Wall Street guy.  And I definitely won’t support any politician of any stripe that wants to cut science funding.  Science funding is quite small compared to military or social programs.  I don’t have a political home because there isn’t any party that reflects what I value.  And I think many people in the under 40 crowd feel the same way.  And I know it may irritate some of my elders to write this, but I think the last thing our world needs is a senior citizen politician who isn’t familiar with science and modern technology.  My parents generation has been in charge for almost thirty years.  Retire and play with your grandkids already, you earned it 🙂

I guess the biggest reason I have been fighting depression for awhile is that my primary means of socializing and communicating, social media sites, have become so toxic and nasty even among friends and family.  And I think it sucks.  Some days I doubt I really am making any positive difference.  Heck, some days I wonder if people even want positivity and happiness in their lives.

Dealing With Stupid People While Having A Mental Illness

I readily admit I get frustrated when the people I am around on a regular basis do and say stupid things and then keep repeating these mistakes over the course of months and years.  I know I shouldn’t be angry with people just because they aren’t smart.  Some people are just dumb and they are never going to become Mensa material no matter what you do for them.  That is probably the hardest fact of life that I have ever had to accept.  I can handle people not having empathy.  I can handle people being greedy.  But for some odd reason I have had a very tough time coming to the acceptance that some people are just dumb, have always been dumb, and are never going to be interested in the intellectual things like science, technology, history, philosophy, literature, etc. that I am.

Being smart has always come easy to me.  I can’t remember ever not knowing how to read because I pretty much taught myself how to read.  I can’t remember ever having to be forced to read because I read so voraciously on my own. I still do. I actually had to be forced to put down my books and go outside with the neighborhood kids against my will.  I suppose my parents were afraid that I would be one of these really smart people who had lousy social skills.  Well, that happened anyway.  Yet I don’t mind having below average social skills.  Most of the stuff average people like to talk about, like politics, sports, the weather, farming, work, celebrities, etc., I find quite boring.  As much as I enjoy baseball, I wouldn’t have much of a stake in the games if I didn’t have a fantasy league team.  As much as I enjoyed the violence of football when I played as a teenager, I wouldn’t watch any games if it didn’t give me anything to talk about with the average person.  I don’t personally follow politics much except if politicians make noise about cutting science programs.  Cutting science programs will hurt nations long term.  Much of what was the computer and information revolutions came about because of the space programs in the 60s and 70s.  I am not really happy with my current crop of politicians who are cutting science funding and just want to pull up the draw bridge and isolate from the rest of the world.  Who would have thought twenty years ago China and India would be leading the world in developing and implementing nonpolluting technology?  When my parents were children, their parents used to tell them “there’s starving kids in China who would love to eat what you complain about.”  I wonder if Chinese and Indian parents tell their kids “keep studying and going to school, there’s dumb people in America.”

I never had a tolerance for ignorance.  And it’s especially tough having a mental illness and living in low income housing when I am not surrounded by many smart people.  I do most of my socializing online anymore because I can at least superficially connect with people who share my interests.  For years I have struggled searching for people with the same intellectual pursuits I have.  My therapists and I have struggled finding ways for me to find social activities for someone with my interests.  I finally came to the painful realization that I am not going to meet many people I can relate to, at least not in traditional senses.  Some of my best friends I interact with mainly online.  The internet is my social life now.  I’m glad I live in an era when it’s available as much as it is.  Had I lived in the dark ages, I probably would have had to join a monastery.  Even then I’d probably be burned at the stake as a heretic.  I am happy that science is really advancing.  And it doesn’t bother me as much as it normally would that many of these advances are now not happening in my own country.  I really don’t care if it’s an American, a Chinese person, an African, etc. who comes up with the next huge breakthrough.  We all share the same planet so we just as well learn to work and think beyond national boundaries.  I hope that the anti intellectualism I see so prevalent in my time and place is merely a passing fad.  And even if it isn’t, there are plenty of places where intelligence is valued and science will progress.  The future is already happening, it’s just not evenly distributed.