An anecdote: dating

This post aligns with my original intent for the theme of this blog: complaining!

I went on a first date a few weeks ago. Every aspect of my communication with this guy was ridiculous.

I met him online, which means that the first communication was a message on this site. We proceeded to exchange maybe 8 or 10 innocuous messages. Fine. Let’s move on, shall we? I was the one who suggested in a very straightforward manner that we get coffee. (i.e. “Maybe we should get coffee or something.”) Instead of nailing down a date or time, he asked for my phone number. Hope blossomed within me as I thought that he’d be upgrading from an Internet message to a PHONE CALL to figure things out!

But no. Over the next day and a half I was bombarded with texts.

“Where did u go to school?”

“Oh u play guitar? sweeeet”

“yeah fo sho I dunno what my plans are for this weekend tho”

(I don’t actually have anything against texting language or abbreviations, but coming from someone I didn’t even know in the first place, somehow it was infuriating. We haven’t even met in person, and you’re not providing me with any proof that you know how to use the English language.)

As a good guy friend put it, this guy’s blitzkrieg of brief, meaningless messages betrayed a “fanatical desperation.” I love meeting new people, but I like MEETING them — I can’t find out anything about who you are in 140 silent, typefaced characters!

So I was full of apprehension days before we even went out. But I subdued it with rationalizations concerning the incredible ubiquity of texting in “our generation” or something.

Every aspect of the planning and execution of said date was left entirely in my hands. Our exchange (STILL VIA TEXT MESSAGE) went something like this:

Me: What would you like to do?

Guy: Oh it’s up to you

Me: Okay, how about we do A or B?

Guy: Both sound fine lol

Me: [swallowing aggravation] Okay, we’ll do A. Should we get dinner beforehand?

Guy: Sure if you want

Me: Okay, which restaurant would you like to go to? Pick somewhere. [NOTICE THIS LAST SENTENCE]

Guy: Anywhere is fine with me, you pick

Do guys think it’s nice and considerate to force the woman to decide on every detail of a date? Because sometimes, news flash, we actually mean what we say. When I ask you to pick a restaurant, it means I want you to pick a restaurant.

The actual date was not great but not terrible — probably because it was such a relief to have a civilized conversation in person. He went to the bathroom right before the check came, which was great — I had the waiter split it and both bills were on the table by the time my date returned. (I believe strongly that a girl should pay for herself on the first date. Otherwise, there’s a contract set up between you; you feel indebted to the guy already.)

He said with disappointment, “Oh, I wanted to get that.” If you wanted to pay, maybe you should have arranged to be present when the check came.

He texted me literally 2 minutes after we (finally) said goodbye, about “how great it was to meet u.” I’m terribly old-fashioned, but haven’t you heard of the 48-hour rule? Even 8 hours would do. It was like he had this chronic fear that I’d forget about his existence if he didn’t bombard me with text messages at least once an hour.

The next afternoon when he texted me “how’s ur day going? :)” I decided I’d had enough. I called him and made a lame excuse about how texting was annoying for me because I have an old-school, number phone (which is true, incidentally). I could hear the disappointment and dread as his voice rose half an octave and he laughed nervously, “Oh sure! I totally understand!”

This was a little cruel on my part, perhaps. But when I’ve just met someone, I think I’m entitled to a little time and space apart from them.

I also realized that afternoon that we had switched debit cards.

An awkward on-campus rendezvous ensued.

Guy [with puppy-like anticipation]: So what are your plans for the rest of the night? [this was at 4:30pm]

Me: I’m really tired….

Guy: [dying a little inside]: Oh yeah, sure, sure.

Again, maybe a little cruel of me (although I was actually pretty tired). I couldn’t find it in me to break this puppy’s heart by delivering the brutal truth.

I’m not trying to say that I’m the most desirable, dateable person in the world — in fact, that’s part of why his desperation was so off-putting. I want to date someone whose entire existence doesn’t hang on the prospect of seeing me again as soon as possible. Is that weird?

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Drugs and spirituality

A few weeks ago, I finally watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — one of those modern classics that I somehow had not seen up until now. I thought it was great, but there was a definite tinge of unpleasantness that came from the film’s “honest look” at the use of psychoactive drugs. The viewer is subjected to the characters’ riotous highs but also to their terrifying lows. I had to wonder if the ecstasy and understanding achieved could be worth the havoc wrought on Raoul’s and Dr. Gonzo’s lives.

Around the same time, I encountered this article by Sam Harris, discussing the possible virtues of using drugs to alter consciousness. Drug use is a personal choice, and I don’t condemn it; however, I feel a need to raise some objections to Harris’ argument.

Harris compares psychedelic drugs to other consciousness-altering activities in terms of their potency: “If a person learns to meditate, pray, chant, do yoga, etc., there is no guarantee that anything will happen. Depending on his aptitude, interest, etc., boredom could be the only reward for his efforts.” This comparison to more natural (less chemical) means of altering consciousness led me to a certain self-righteousness on behalf of those spiritual activities: if these are available to us, why use drugs — which, despite their expedited effects, carry risks of physical and psychological harm? I felt the vague conviction that yoga and prayer are more valuable, less self-absorbed activities than drugs. However, these are often practiced in solitude. I guess I would say that these activities are more social because they are engaging with something larger than oneself. But Harris would probably say the same thing about drugs! Are we both right? I’m at an impasse on this one. To try to “prove” my spiritual convictions in logical terms would be a futile exercise.

But I think the point at which my spiritual beliefs really come into play is when Harris writes about the mental potential that we can “unlock” with drugs. He writes: “The power of psychedelics… is that they often reveal, in the span of a few hours, depths of awe and understanding that can otherwise elude us for a lifetime.” It’s true that part of the joy of being human is to explore our minds and strive to reach new levels of understanding. But when we employ our advanced knowledge about the way our bodies work in the construction of an express track to transcendence, I think we may have gone too far. At some point, I wonder: who are we to reap the full benefits of the incredible and mysterious minds that we’ve been endowed with?

Harris makes the valid point that ethical transcendence is the relinquishing of egoity — letting go of “our thoughts, moods, desires, etc.” In this act, he writes, “we make progress.” The latent kernel of Puritanism within me would argue that this is true — but that it’s a reason to avoid drugs. Maybe we’re meant to be shackled by our individual conscious selves, overwhelmed with the weight of ego. And yes, life should be about struggling to let go of that weight, to make progress toward a selfless existence. But to use substances to achieve such a state effortlessly is itself an egotistical choice and thoroughly contradicts the ethical argument Harris puts forward.

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Why I like train travel

I didn’t have a car for the first 2½ years of college, so I rode the train from San Diego to Los Angeles to visit my family some weekends. Now that I have my car, I think I still prefer train travel. There’s a certain feeling of independence and competence that comes from learning the transfers, becoming familiar with the stations, walking purposefully with my little duffel bag in tow.

This past weekend, I decided to take the train in order to avoid CARMAGEDDON. Ironically, the train ended up being delayed for over an hour and I sat on the floor of the aisle for most of the trip. I’ve experienced more public transportation mishaps than you’d believe, but even these are invigorating, in a way. They foster simple social interactions — commiseration, jokes — that remind me I’m not alone in the midst of all these strangers. Adversity brings people together, and trains seem to possess a magnetic attraction to adversity.

There is also a peace that comes to me only when I ride the train or metro. I’m always at my greatest moments of clarity when I’m sitting on the cheap rainbow-printed seats, flanked by other travelers (having semi-willingly abandoned my standards of personal space), staring at my greenish fluorescent reflection against the dark Los Angeles night. The bleak city landscape somehow crystallizes for me the senseless wonder and chaos of our miraculous world. I still can’t put it all into words, but someday I’ll be able to articulate why it is that gray train yards and empty lots are almost more beautiful to me than anything else.

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Full-time work for no pay? Sign me up!

I’m going into my last year of college, and if you believe the rhetoric my peers and I hear from the career center and from a lot of potential employers, my options look pretty bleak…

1) Grad school (because 16 years of being a student just isn’t enough for me! Please, put me in more debt!)

2) McDonald’s, data entry, etc.

3) An unpaid internship

I first started hearing about unpaid internships at the end of high school, and I never really liked the idea. You say I’ll gain “experience” and “connections” from performing menial labor and/or research for a little-known company, full time, for free? Something doesn’t sound right.

I don’t have to pontificate any more on this, because other bloggers have already done it better. I’m just glad people are beginning to question this suddenly familiar institution in intelligent ways. Tim Barker’s Privilege and Exploitation in the Intern Nation is a great exploration of the circumstances that created the sudden ubiquity of internships. (Thanks to Taylor over at Prospect Blog for this one.) And, if you prefer slightly more blunt language, check out Calling Bullshit on Unpaid Internships by Stu Curry — completely on target about the various reasons internships don’t actually benefit graduates, you know, at all.

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Logical fallacies can happen to YOU

Ryan Seacrest recently graced my car radio with this jewel of contradictions:

“You won’t realize you can’t live without a Windows phone, until after you’ve gotten one.”

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Kicking it old school: the modern religious world could use a Luther successor

Netflix keeps unearthing odd little gems for me to watch, so today I watched this movie about a Jesuit missionary trying to convert the Huron tribe. (It wasn’t bad, I recommend it. Except it seems to be dubbed over French.) The main character spent a lot of time lecturing both Native Americans and his adorable French protegee about things they should or shouldn’t do. Don’t fornicate. Don’t kill. Don’t interpret dreams. And I think that’s one of the most prevalent faces Christianity, among other religions, presents to the world: a set of edicts governing your behavior. If you discipline your actions, you purify your soul.

I think it may be closer to the other way around. I think Martin Luther got it right when he was protesting indulgences: it’s not your acts that save you, it’s your faith. Following the rules isn’t going to change your state of mind, at least not in a sincere and lasting way.

It’s the same with the other facet that outsiders see in Christianity: you know, the Jesus thing. There’s this ad campaign right now for a televangelist station, which presents words like savior, teacher, lunatic, then asks (from the perspective of Jesus), “Who do you say that I am?” — apparently distilling an entire belief system into one Gospel quotation.

The thing is, Jesus isn’t really a “who” question. You don’t hang faith on the identity of one person, on the reconciliation of that identity. Being secure in the belief of “who” Jesus was doesn’t just transform you into a perfect Christian. Faith is about turning your gaze outward, being part of something larger than yourself. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus channel and shape that faith through stories and lessons that they get out of ancient texts, and through trying to shape their behavior as well. What I’m trying to say is that you can’t manufacture faith from doctrine; doctrine grows from a faith that’s already there.

The most important point I would make, if I could address any non-religious people out there, is that faith absolutely isn’t about being perfect, not in any belief system. Religious people will try to tell you they’ve got it all right and you’ve got it all wrong, and that’s just not true. For me, faith is about accepting that our lives are pretty mysterious, that we make mistakes and that things don’t always turn out well. Perfection is impossible in this life; if I find some connection with God, I catch a glimpse of a greater significance to my existence than my brief life, barely a speck on the space-time continuum. And when I talk about greater meaning, I’m not saying that today’s suffering will all be “worth it” because we’re going to heaven. I mean that I can begin to see how my life is connected to everything else; how it has no temporal or spatial or metaphysical constraints.

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Welcome to the 21st-century classroom

I’ve finally succumbed to the desire to start a blog. This summer class I’m taking is just too incredible not to share with the world. I present to you two highlights from the past two weeks:

 

 

Prof: “What about Weber? Can we call Weber a reductionist?”

The classroom is dead silent. The girl next to me has been on her laptop for the entire class, doing everything except taking notes. She Googles, “is weber a reductionist?”

 

 

Prof: “So, what was the Civil War about?”

[15 seconds of total silence]

Blonde: “Wasn’t it about the North and South…… slaves…..?”

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