My high thoughts from July through September, 2015 continue:
“I mentioned my problem with advanced Philosophy is how binary it can become. It seems to excite philosophers when they can say, ‘We were able to define a possible flaw within this multifaceted concept, so now we get to throw the whole thing out. Yay!’
“Instead of abandoning groups of ideas at their first signs of weakness, I find it more useful just to stay aware of potential relationships between the least deniable strengths and limitations of all connected possibilities.
“Why think only in terms of a single ‘this or that’?
“So, how does Philosophy relate to facing addiction?
“An old and fundamental question has really been hitting me lately: When I tell you to go public with your real experience, what exactly am I encouraging you to share?
“What do I mean by ‘real experience’?
“High thoughts like these are part of what I share. But why should I trust my high thoughts?
“Is that what I’m telling you to share: high thoughts?
“What if you don’t use weed, but face completely different compulsions and limitations?
“What I’ve been sharing all along are really just connections I’ve experienced when intuitions and confirming illuminations have touched events in my life to reveal and empower my values.
“But are intuitions and values necessarily mystical things that require us to delve into realms like faith and divination?
“I only want to see what’s true. I don’t want to act like I know exactly how or why intuition works. I don’t think any of the mystical descriptions I’ve been using necessarily require mystical interpretations.
“As mentioned, I have no interest in arguing about interpretations.
“Interpretations, themselves, are never actually experienced. They’re the narratives you use to account for your experiences.
“One of the best byproducts of sharing publically is that everything you think about your experience ends up being tested and reduced until only that which can be confirmed remains as likely true.
“If what I’ve been preparing to share has actually helped me change, then my most important intuitions from the beginning must have been correct.
“But as soon as I write that, I hear again the faraway echoes of my former conscience. Though dead and powerless, its muffled jeers are still aimed (as always) at discrediting my progress.
“Yeah, yeah… I’m not perfect.
“That old ghost would seek to weave my imperfections into a mythological tale of failure, unworthiness, and shame. But its impenetrable, rhetorical shrieking is only grounded in the dread of uncertainty.
“And my ‘faith’ in the direction I’m going and the progress I’ve made works the exact opposite way: Only intuitions that actually empower me to change are confirmed as they touch my real experience—as I see myself actually changing.
“Again, prescriptions and mythologies never touch the experiences or intuitions they’re meant to explain. They’re only possible accountings.
“I hope that distinction is clear enough.
“So, yeah: Much of the experience I share happened to be recorded while high. Could someone who’s never tried weed benefit from my story?
“I think I first have to just get this one weed-specific thought out of the way: The part of my story I’ve been trying not to focus on has been my belief that weed can actually show you between or behind your own thoughts enough to help you find direction.
“I haven’t expanded much on weed’s potential benefits because I’ve been trying to apply what I’ve learned to all addictions and limitations.
“But for those who use weed: Could I be encouraging you to see how your own high thoughts and intuitions might connect over time?
“A small and silly voice says, ‘I think I just done spun weed into gold.’
“But as for universal applications: Sharing your real experience might just equate to learning to be yourself as you go public with your story without allowing your perspective to be skewed by any fixed interpretations at all.
“Regardless of whatever addictions or limitations you face, going public is your catalyst to change.
“The goal of going public is to connect with others like you in whichever ways best suit your personality.
“There are three basic phases of going public:
“First, you see your real values more and more as you prepare your experience to share. This empowers you to start managing yourself.
“Then there’s the phase of actually putting your experience out there somewhere. This enables you to see yourself more objectively.
“The final phase is finding where your people are and showing them your experience, connecting it with theirs.
“The timing of each phase can’t be predicted, but you find yourself naturally crossing over into the next as soon as you’re ready.
“It’s the objective sense of yourself and your values you gain from the first two phases that gives you something to share with those you connect with in the third.
“I’m currently entering phase three. I know my values and who I want to be. I see exactly where I am on my journey. My priority now is to connect—to take what I’ve prepared to share, and to actually share it with others like me.
“How you connect, and who you connect with, has a lot to do with your art form. Find those who are either successfully doing what you want to do, or who have the same goals as you—those being held back in similar ways from reaching similar potential.
“You don’t have to literally be social with those you connect with, especially if that’s not your personality. Just get to a place where you can somehow share becoming who you want to be.
“There’s no rush. Both going public with your experience and growing to face and overcome your limitations are gradual processes, and that’s fine. You’ll get where you need to be on time. There’s nothing stopping you today.
“It took me years to go public because my natural way of sharing happens to have been preparing this long story.
“Progress in different areas takes different amounts of time for different people.
“A horrible truth I’ve had to face is that I’ve probably been coming across to friends, family, and coworkers as extremely childish, unstable, strange, and weak for the past few years.
“We’ve been talking about how preparing and sharing your real experience forces you to develop a more mature perspective. Well, you reach a point (before phase three) when you’ve had your big moments of self-realization; you know exactly who you are and what you want; but giving yourself the time and space to have had your massive epiphanies has left you somewhat selfish and spoiled, especially if your process has taken as long as mine.
“Isolated people might care deeply for others, and they might long for companionship; but only thinking about how to take care of yourself leaves you unavoidably self-focused to some degree.
“The good news is that when you reach the end of yourself, your priority for continued growth and maturity naturally shifts outward.
“The gap between knowing who you want to be and actually living as that person is where you discover and develop the unique set of values you bring to the world. Developing and delivering your values automatically shifts your focus from yourself to others.
“By that point, you’re already secure enough in yourself to truly connect with and help those facing similar struggles. That’s when all the inner changes you’ve experienced are fixed into an outward public identity.
“Again, going public is the catalyst. It solidifies into practiced character and behavior the new perspective you’ve gained as you’ve come to realize who you are, what you want, and what you bring.
“When you reach phase three, you’re not the limited, selfish person were before you began preparing and sharing. You’re strong, stable, and balanced.
“Advancing through the phases of going public humbles you in a beautiful way. Everything sequentially shifts from being just about you and your own needs to being about the needs of as many others as possible.
“Putting others first is the basis of reaching and influencing people.
“It’s incredibly uplifting to see where you naturally fit and thrive amongst various communities: interests, friends, goals, family, struggles…
“Being ready to take your experience to the conversation—phase three—means being ready to find and build relationships with those you can truly be yourself with.
“Depending on your addictions, compulsions, or limitations, you might have to go public anonymously, perhaps by creating a cool pseudonym.
“Yes, you can expect to be judged when you share your real experience, especially by those still fighting to hide theirs.
“Those just trying to show that they can make it in someone else’s world are always quick to judge anyone taking actual steps to create a world of their own.
“Again, you’re an artist. There’s something of great value buried deep in the core of your being, which you can find immense fulfillment in developing and bringing to the world.
“If people are going to judge and hate artists anyway, we might as well have the free and open lives we’re hated for having, no?
“Your art form and experience must be free to judge in order to be genuine. No matter how hard you work on whatever you go public with, I’d encourage you to grant all who see it the freedom to think and respond however they want.
“Today everyone gets judged for whatever they do anyway (just go on Yelp).
“When I worked at the massive religious organization, many on staff would freely talk one-on-one about all sorts of things they’d never open up about in a larger group, especially among the core group of leaders.
“That dynamic makes sense in terms of reputation and wanting to build a career within an organization.
“But to truly face yourself, you have to find a way to go public with your real limitations and compulsions.
“See what creating a fun persona can do for you.
“I hate feeling judged. My gut reaction is always to try to force whoever’s judging me to understand exactly where I’m coming from.
“But as someone who wants to be mature and take responsibility, the reality of judgment just means I have to work harder upfront at being as clear and honest as possible.
“When you’re a grownup, tantrums don’t tend to get you what you want, do they?
“Self-pity keeps you from seeing and accepting those things you cannot change, which you must learn to do before you can ever hope to start changing the things you can.
“In my younger years, my friends and I were completely open with each other about absolutely everything. That’s actually what I’ve tried to make happen in all my relationships.
“Times spent hanging out and bearing souls with those I can truly be myself with are treasures in my heart.
“I don’t really understand relationships that aren’t like that. I have great difficulty when communication seems to center around small talk for the purpose of keeping individuals interchangeable.
“But I need to get better at accepting professional distances. It’s immature of me to consider only myself and what I want.
“Yes, I value realness and openness. Wonderful. But maturity has to eventually take me outside myself to where I can see and appreciate others’ values as well.
“Bringing this chapter full circle: Seeing others’ values is impossible if you cling to any single interpretation of experience.
“If you’re willing to see all possible accountings, you’re then able to measure competing ideas objectively. You’re able to understand exactly where anyone you meet is coming from (as much as they let you). You see where your values connect with theirs, which is more useful than fighting to defend only your own shifting, incomplete narrative.
“Kurt Cobain might be a tragic example of what can happen if the product of isolated self-realization (phases one and two of going public) gets so overwhelmed by shameful interpretations that moving forward toward compelling values feels utterly impossible.
“Kurt was an artist I think about often. I feel I can relate to him in many ways.
“Kurt grew up isolated for so long that he became sort of spoiled in the way I’m describing—he got used to thinking and taking care of only himself.
“Kurt was constantly made aware of how he didn’t measure up to the ideals he was raised to prize. As an artist, he turned that tense dichotomy into a beautifully real battle between different parts of himself in his songs.
“Fame only heightened Kurt’s isolation and inward-drawn ‘spoildness,’ causing his inner ironies to erupt in public shame.
“He always felt misunderstood.
“Those painful disparities sprung from and confirmed Kurt’s ever-felt distance from acceptable until one day one ‘side’ won the battle.
“Imagine for a moment what it would really be like to look ahead yet again to the nightmare of trying to face and beat a heroin addiction: excruciating, possibly endless, and in his case ever wrought with pubic shame…
“And the goal would be what? To reach some starting point or foundation upon which to build a life he’d never known in almost thirty years…?
“So, how am I optimistic, since I believe I hold the same artistic ideals of realism and freedom Kurt felt he couldn’t be hopeful about back in the early ‘90s?
“Kurt stood, in his peacefully intense way, against the hype and fakeness of a mainstream culture that would never really know or accept him for who he was; then he got swallowed up into it, eventually being used (along with others) to turn ‘alternative’ into a mere collection of stylistic choices within what became an even wider mainstream.
“I’m optimistic because I don’t believe there is a mainstream anymore. There’s only the ghost of one.
“I see everyone sort of scratching their heads these days, having been raised to believe we should all want certain things.
“I mean, society has always taught us how important it is to strive for what it shows us will lead to success in whichever of its pre-packaged endeavors we choose, right?
“Today most values that once required infrastructures to make and bring to the world could potentially be produced without them. That means everyone could essentially see, learn, create, and be whatever they want—especially as they connect with others like them—and all sans the need for credit, boards, bureaucracies, or hype.
“Like Kurt, I have no desire or stomach for mass attention. I only want to reach the likeminded at whatever points our journeys naturally intersect.
“This story isn’t really the place for me to share about all the changes I see taking place in society, so I’ll just say this: Instead of a mainstream that takes the shell of ‘real’ for its own profit, I’m optimistic that there won’t be a need for anything to ‘be alternative to’ as individuals realize the freedom we all now have to express, connect, and build.
“You could see Kurt write off every experience he had in clips and interviews—drugs, life, marriage, art, friendship . . . eventually coming to quietly sing ‘all in all is all we are.’
“Have you ever felt misunderstood by whole worlds of people? Have you ever felt held at safe distances for being strange?
“None of that has to matter anymore.
“I see a different world now from the one that existed in 1994.
“For example, an interviewer once asked Kurt how people could find other underground artists. Kurt muttered something along the lines of, ‘It’s not that hard, man; find an independent record store in the nearest town, and get into the fanzines and culture and stuff.’
“How much easier is it now to find and connect with anyone, anywhere, that might share your experience, values, style, etc.?
“But you have to actually go public for that truly irreplaceable world of your own to exist.
“Again, going public (phase three) is the catalyst.”
I later got high again, and wrote:
“For years now, I’ve been too embarrassed (while high) to write to some of my closest friends, even when I think of exactly what I’d want to say.
“So I’ve been writing letters to old friends, but then sending those letters only to myself.
“I don’t want to be stuck here alone anymore. I want to be free so I can go public unashamed and share my heart with a me-sized world I’ve felt kept from all this time.”