Monday, 30 November 2015

Self-Improvement Without Motivational Myths

Pop therapists and other motivational writers rely on a number of core myths: the Integrated Man; the Intimate Relationship; the Meaningful Life; the Abundant Universe; and the Myth of Serendipity. These are counter-propaganda against the myths that the patient believes about themselves.

Integrated Man: the patient believes that they must hide their innermost thoughts and feelings, and pretend to be someone else, or to be the person that they think other people want them to be: the Myth of the Integrated Man tells them that they can be themselves and people won’t run away from them.

Intimate Relationship: The patient believes that no-one will love them, hear them, care about them, meet their needs (this is therapy-speak for sex), or help them in anything more than a transactional way: the Myth of the Intimate Relationship tells them that somewhere out there is someone, or a group of someones, who will fill that horrible emptiness with attention and love (and sex and cuddles).

Meaningful Life: The patient believes that they are doomed to a life of empty, unfulfilling day-job grind with accompanying commuting and maintenance work. They have half-formed dreams and plans, and interests and (often arty) abilities that are slowly rotting away in their soul. The Myth of the Meaningful Life tells them that if they identify and follow their passions, they will find a job, or clients, or an agent, or a gallery who will help them do work they find rewarding and fascinating and happy-making.

Abundance: The patient believes that there simply isn’t enough of the Good Stuff to go round, and that they won’t be there when it’s being dispensed. Other people get the good jobs, all the good women are already married, all the nice flats in reasonable parts of town are already taken, heck, they can’t even get a ticket for a concert. The Myth of Abundance tells them that, well, the Universe isn’t out to deny them anything, and in fact provides enough for everyone, even if you might have to be up earlier to get in the queue.

Serendipity: The patient believes that their life is in a rut, that nothing will ever change, that all doors are locked and all seats already taken. The Myth of Serendipity (Jung gets quoted a lot here) says that the Universe puts opportunities in our way all the time, if we could but see them, and that the important thing is to have goal towards which you are working, and that in and of itself will cause the Universe to swing stuff your way.

I'm not going to critique these myths for two reasons. First, because you know they are nonsense. Second, because these myths are not supposed to be descriptions of the world, but to help the patient shake off the despair, hopelessness and victimisation they often feel. If this happens over the short term, I can't really complain. However, these myths are a lot like pissing in your pants: it gives you an immediate warm feeling and leaves behind a mess. In three years' time the patient will be wondering what he's doing wrong, because he still isn't "getting his needs met" and he can't seem to find anyone to pay him enough for doing what he really likes to do.

Is there an alternative? Well, yes there is. Thou shalt (weight) lift. Thou shalt stop watching and reading junk culture, and read Great Books For Men instead. Thou shalt cut down on smoking and drink only when needed to chase after girls. If thy girlfriend has not consented to sex in the last month, thou shalt turn her out of thy dwellings, even as thou shalt take the day off to change the locks and put her possessions into storage. Thou shalt un-friend girls who tell you what a good friend you are but have sex with bad boys. Thou shalt smarten up thy wardrobe after thou hast lost fat and gained muscle. Thou shalt polish up thy CV, taking professional advice if needed, and post a summary on LinkedIn, and start to apply for jobs, because thou needest the interview practice. Then thou shalt apply for jobs where thou really wantest to work. Thou shalt try everything in an attempt to find something that thou likest to do. And thou shalt read Heartiste, and the London Daygamers. (But thou shalt steer clear of Roosh and his works as he's lost the plot, and neither shalt thou drink from the wisdom of Rollo, for it is nihilist in a manner that makes Nietzsche sound like your parish priest.) And thou shalt walk down the streets with thine head held high, and not give a damn that the previous evening thou didst rub one out to India Summer in a video. For what else is a man to do when surrounded by the women that surroundest thou? And remember, the greatest of all these actions, on which all others are built, is lifting. Bro, thou shalt even lift.

In other words a proven programme of practical action. Allez en avant et la foi vous viendrez as someone French said (roughly, "Where your ass leads, your mind will follow"). Take away the toxic crap of pop culture, exercise your body and mind, eat right, and don't spend more than you can afford, and you will recover. If you have substance abuse problems, go to the relevant Anonymous. That too will have a program of practical action.

Will the world love you after this? Will you "get your needs met"? No. But you will care a whole lot less. Because you will be living a whole lot better.

Which brings us to the third and final part: Red Pill nihilism.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

No More Mr Nice Guy

(This mini-series was inspired by reading Robert Glover's Nice Guys Finish Last, which you don't have to pay to read if you know where to look. This is Part One.)

Robert Glover’s book is one of the underground references for the Sphere, along with Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man, Mystery’s The Mystery Method and Warren Farrell’s Why Men Are The Way They Are (or you can choose another of his). Glover is a therapist and while the book was published in 2000, he says it was written over a period of six years, and so is based on therapeutic ideas from the early 1990’s.

The Nice Guys you think he’s talking about are regular Joes who always finish last and don’t get the girl. You would be wrong. Judging by the examples, the Nice Guys he’s really talking about are men from chronically dysfunctional families: alcoholic parents, extreme religiosity, absent and demanding fathers, emotionally exploitative mothers. These kinds of dysfunctions have a number of effects, from pre-teen drug use to adaptive behaviours (controlling, rescuing, people-pleasing, retreating into fantasy, or focussing on study or sports training) that help the young man manage his life. As a result, he will have no idea how to deal with regular people, who will feel uncomfortable with the way he handles them, even if they don’t know why, and he will have acting-out or compulsive behaviours. These aren’t regular Joes at all, but they do tend to finish towards the back of the field and certainly don’t get the girls they want, and they do tend to come across as manipulative and unsympathetic.

Very few people are going to pick up a book about those people. But tell them it’s the fault of feminism, absent fathers, 9-5 commuting from suburbs and a truly awful lack of male teachers (this is an American book), nod to Robert “The Drummer” Bly and initiation ceremonies, and you can make it seem that it’s about people who might not be going to Anonymous meetings. Well, it isn’t.

Glover is a married therapist (who therefore doesn’t have the armour of an MD or PhD) who practices in the USA. He must therefore impose upon his patients a highly vanilla flavour of the ideal life.

Discussing his idea of the Integrated Man he promises that you won’t be ashamed of your wants, needs, desires, faults, prejudices, bad skin and tendency to fart after eating broccoli. Much more than this, he promises that people will respond more favourably to your open presentation of yourself, than to the fearful, managed and bowdlerised version you are currently presenting. Ah. Except. When he said “wants, needs and desires” he didn’t mean the cocaine, pornography, booze, promiscuity, over-eating and debt-financed consumer status purchases… you understood that, right? He meant the natural needs and wants and desires. And you should probably keep your anti-Diversity and other non-PC opinions to yourself in working hours and around minorities (like women) at any time. Also could you not eat broccoli anymore? Because, you know, farting? Gross? So when you read it that way, of course everyone likes your Integrated Man - because there’s nothing to dislike about it.

The Protestant Work Ethic gets in via the idea of living a Meaningful Life, in which you Follow Your Passions and do something interesting. As a job, of course. The idea that you might just take a day job to pay some minimal bills and then go live your life afterwards? No. You will be a productive member of the economy and society and work hard in your dream industry or with your dream skills. That is, after all, what it means to have a meaningful life. Right?

The second most lunatic moment (the most lunatic moment involves something called “healthy masturbation” and is a real hoot) is the Pop Quiz about sexual guilt, where he wants us to believe that there are people who: a) had a “joyous" first sexual experience which they could share with family and friends; b) talk openly and comfortably with their partner about masturbation; c) are comfortable revealing everything about their sexual experiences, thoughts or impulses with their partner. Failure to agree with any of this means you have sexual guilt. Seriously? How about the idea that for the men he’s talking about, it would be incredibly unwise to reveal anything that could be used as ammunition against them, because that’s what frakked-up partners do to each other. Nope, in Glover’s world, all partners are trustworthy, broad-minded, experienced, and generally all-round cool. Yeah, right. And who, in the name of all that's realistic, ever had a "joyous" first sexual experience? Nobody. Ah, which means we all need to buy his book or be his clients. Badabob badabpoom, all the way to the bank. Listen, a guy has to make a living.

He is right to point out that Frakked-Up Guys do tend to believe that If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be, then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life. It doesn’t work like that. But then, neither do his suggestions. At best, his advice will help some men shake off their false assumptions. But Glover doesn’t really have anything but the usual inspirational fantasies to put in their place, and I'll discuss what those are and what should go in their place later.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Richmond Lock, November Afternoon

Like it says in the title. I took last week off. The weather was mostly awful, so I did a lot of reading and box sets, plus the odd venture outside. This was after lunch in Richmond when I had half-an-hour to run out on my parking, so I took a quick stroll down to the river.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Red-Pill Self-Improvement Documentary?

A few weeks ago I read about Cassie Jaye’s Kickstarter (closed way overfunded on 11th November) for her documentary on the Men’s Rights Movement, and my first thought was that maybe I should pitch in. To the great annoyance of salesmen everywhere I never act on first thoughts when it involves money or women. I gave it a while and then understood why I was hesitating.

MRA isn't my fight. I'm a lifetime bachelor with no children, and much MRA is about the inequities of Family Law. I live in the UK, and outside a few universities, we don't have the problems with PC crazies that the USA and Canada do. Our Family Law system is designed to reduce the potential burden on taxpayers (me) of divorced mothers with little or no value as employees, which has nothing to do with misandry. British politicians are masters of the conflict-dissolving legislative gesture, and have more or less dissolved feminism, leaving behind some click-bait mavens and privileged white women whose rhetoric fools nobody. I think the MRAs are right: it can suck real bad to be a man, especially if you can’t spot a bad woman from their body language and attitude. It lacks sympathy to say so, but a lot of MRA problems arise because the man either didn’t have an Early Warning System or didn’t listen to it.

(Press play for this immortal quote from The Friends of Eddie Coyle)

Men don't need "awareness raised" about their "issues". They need to identify their mistakes and to carry the message. They need to set an example to other men. And when the young ones who didn’t take the advice are mangled by redundancy, accident, illness, crazy women, divorce, social services, the Family Courts, or are simply abandoned by the love of their lives, then men need to be there to provide emergency services.

There are people who carry some of the message. It's a dirty job. Analysing feminist propaganda to lay bare the deceptions, distractions and the underlying messages and demands is cultural sewage maintenance. Someone has to expose, day after day, the lies and distortions in feminist propaganda, and fight back with snappy one-liners. Over and over and over and over. This is a propaganda war. And from Heartiste, and Rollo Tomassi, through Terence Popp, to the men who run blogs reviewing TV and comic series for excessive Blue Pill content, there are plenty of propagandists out there. I appreciate the work they do. Because I was a newbie once.

What we don’t have a lot of is the self-improvement stuff. There’s Danger and Play, and Mark Manson, and a few more. Most of what’s out there is Game. There’s a lot of fraudulent stuff - The Good Man Project and The Art of Manliness to name two - and what is almost everything ever written on diet and nutrition (as opposed to the chemistry of food) except proof that PhD’s write bro science too? There are handy little books on how to be reasonably stylish - my favourites are Mr Jones’ Rules for the modern man and (don’t mock me) The Metrosexual Guide to Style as well as the utterly authoritative Gentleman by Bernard Roetzl and personally I like a lot of what John LeFevre says. But if there’s a good book on daily nutrition, I’ve yet to find it, though I liked Power Eating and if you’re even thinking about re-decorating your flat, you can’t be without Home is Where the Heart Is but at this point you may feel I’m over-reaching.

Perhaps a self-improvement blog or book feels too prescriptive for the Sphere, or perhaps it just feels too simple. How much is there to say about this stuff? Or perhaps there’s a fear that it will slide into Mens Health at one extreme or Fantastic Man at the other. Or that it will be over-whelmed by “bro, do you even lift?” comments. Or that it will need a team right from the start, because one person can’t cover this stuff. Anyway...

As for a Red Pill film? I’d like to see a documentary about, say, four men in their early forties who got reamed. They are out of shape, don’t have any social life, can’t dress worth a damn, can’t cook and have even less Game than me. Over the next eighteen months, we see them follow a workout / eat right / quit smoking / dump the junk culture / travel / try hobbies until you find one you like / learn Game. It would be nice, but not essential if one dropped out early and carried on being a self-pitying, overweight drunk whining about missing his kids. It would be amazing if one actually pulled a twenty-something hottie and was in a stable Red Pill relationship. Maybe one turns into a decent boring citizen who occasionally meets women but now finds them way too entitled and selfish, and the other decides to put his efforts into a business. The Red Pill helps them understand what they did wrong and how they need to change their thinking about relationships. But what the film is about is how men can always re-invent themselves and their lives.

Because that’s true. God knows I’ve done it about four or five times.

Monday, 16 November 2015

10cc: I’m Not In Love

It was number one for two weeks in 1975, but it got mad airplay. Wikipedia has a nice story about how it came to be written and almost never released. I recall someone in the NME at the time describing it as “a portrait of total alienation”.

It was more than that. It said that even if we were in love, we couldn’t admit it, and even when we did, it would have to be ironic and downbeat, as keeping her picture upon the wall, because “it hides a nasty stain that’s lying there”. It said that love was something that you suffered and had to be hidden, and was best denied.

The song sold gazillions and won all sorts of awards. Because it hit a truth: that the world was changing and love was no longer a joy and the best reason for living, but a liability and an embarrassment.

Of course it could be spun as irony rather than alienation, but this was the 70’s. We weren’t ironic back then. We were alienated. And this was the song that changed the way an entire cohort of young people thought about love.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Many Live of the Multiverse

What is it about cosmology that turns clever people's brains to mush? Well, some of them they think that if they can't come up with a good idea, then the religious fundamentalists will claim that God is behind it all. And only a handful of people notice that believing in a Creator God does not mean that you have to buy the Old and New Testament, the Koran, beards, niqabs, circumcision, and every last condemnation of your local rabbi, priest, parson or mullah. That's just what Richard Dawkins and your local mullah want you to believe.

The alternative to a scientific theory isn't a few verses in the Bible, it's another scientific theory. And if there isn't one, then the scientific community needs to invent three. Unanimity is not a sign of truth, it's a sign that your scientists aren't imaginative enough, or that you need to get the dogmatists off the grants committee.

Another reason is that people get far too emotionally involved in their cosmological theories. They shudder at the infinity of space, or at the idea of the universe turning into a luke-warm sludge. And then they get horribly confused over some philosophical points. The result of this confusion, emotional involvement and the feeling that they are responsible for keeping the lunatic fundamentalists from the door, are mutliverses, Big Bangs and the Many-Worlds theory, surely the most lunatic piece of nonsense ever to be taken seriously by people much smarter than me.

We live on the planet Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe. Most modern theories of cosmology want to give The Universe a postcode as well: The Multiverse GH23 7FF. Except there's a lot of universes in a multiverse and the post-code would be a lot longer.

It seems it's important to us to know how the universe got started, or if it was always here and always will be. Nothing hangs on this: of all the things we could know, it's about the most useless. Large numbers of people don't even know who their father is, and they get on kinda okay.

Is there something outside "the universe"? No. Because otherwise it wouldn't be the universe. Was there something before it and will there be something after it? No. Because ditto. Might the bit of the universe that we see not be all of the universe? Undoubtedly. Could there be places elsewhere in the universe we can't see where robins have green breasts? Depends how important red breasts are to your definition of a robin. Could there be places in the universe where conservation laws don't arise as a symmetry through Noether's Theorem? Now, that's an interesting question. Is there an inaccessible part of the universe where energy isn't conserved? I'd go with a NO on that, but I'm open to argument. Maybe energy could just vanish, but not be created.

But General Relativity says the Big Bang, doesn't it? It's not compulsory. There are all sorts of solutions to the equations, but the equations can't tell us which solutions actually apply to this universe. Only the initial conditions can, and there's a lot of ambiguity in those.

But fine-tuning and the Anthropic Principle? Stop it. Just like God is not the answer to where the universe came from, nor are zillions of universes the answer to why we all got stuck in this one. Fine-tuning is how we know the laws of nature we're using are about right, and say that an interesting universe can only really be made one way.

Laplace spent a long time thinking he had to prove the Solar System was stable or there was something wrong with the whole edifice of Newtonian Dynamics. Well, now we know there's no reason it should be stable. Now people think they have to prove that the universe is always going to look something like it does now. But it won't. It will look exactly what it is going to look like.

Leverrier spent a long time trying to find Vulcan so he could get rid of Mercury's anomalous perihelion. A lot of people are now trying to find Dark Matter and Dark Energy so they can fix some galactic rotations. Does anyone else smell a generous helping of ad-hoc here? If Newtonian Dynamics needed a planet that wasn't there, or a fine adjustment to the inverse power, to be right, then it was wrong. And if General Relativity plus cosmological constants and simplifying-assumptions-so-we-can-calculate-anything-in-the-first-place needs dark energy and dark matter, well, then, it's wrong. And if we can only understand Quantum Field Theory via a Many-Worlds theory, then we just don't understand Quantum Field Theory either.

Until we do, and until someone comes up with a better General Relativity, I guess we're still going to get more whacky cosmology that in a couple of hundred years' time will read like Aristotle does now.

Monday, 9 November 2015

October 2015 Review

I’m an alcoholic. I’m glad I’m sober. I really don’t want to have the hangovers and bad decisions and behaviour anymore. I’m also an ACoA / co-dependent and I do not attract healthy women and I am attracted by dysfunctional women. In the past, when I was good-looking, we would at least have some sex before the dysfunction pushed us apart. Also I didn’t know about all that stuff, so I didn't know I was getting involved with messed-up women. Now I do know how to identify that stuff, and we don’t get to the sex because I look for the warning signs instead of concentrating on getting her into bed. I’m conflicted here. I am really glad I’m not involved with the post-Wall, Alpha Widow, dysfunctional, emotionally-unavailable women who are, if I’m honest, pretty much all that’s available to me now. But I miss the adventure around the sex. Every now and then, that hits me. I get sad and sour. Every now and then, the sheer lack of physically and emotionally attractive women in this town leaves me feeling close to hopeless. And then it passes and I get back into a groove.

That’s what October has been about. Possibly because it's the month of my AA birthday. I have 22 years sobriety. Shit. But then one reason I have is that I count my sobriety as starting every day I wake up. Sobriety has no memory.

I read Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism and Ghosts of my Life; Jeremy Gray's Plato's Ghost: The Modernist Transformation of Mathematics; finished George Cole's The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis 1980 - 1991; looked through a hefty chunk of Gelman et al's Bayesian Data Analysis; Mark Kurlansky's City Beasts; Robert Greene's Concise 48 Laws of Power; and Adam Warren's Empowered vol 2.

On DVD I watched the whole Arne Dahl series, and the whole of the Unit One series. At the cinema I saw Red Army at the Renior; The Lobster and Macbeth at the Curzon Soho; and Sicario at the local Cineworld.

I went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the RA, followed by supper a conveyer-belt sushi bar in Soho. Talking of food, Sis and I had supper at Tay Do on the Kingsland Road, and I discovered Mas Q Menos in Soho, which is now my go-to place to have a two-course supper if I have time to spare.

The highlight of the month was a wedding (!) in central London between an ex-colleague and her entrepreneur boyfriend. This required wearing a tuxedo, which I haven't done in decades. I left when the dancing started: it was 10:15 and I had to get back to the car at Kew Gardens station.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Anthropic Principles as Categoricity Proofs

The Standard Model of particle physics has a number of physical constants which need to be determined by measurement and don't seem to predicted by any more fundamental theories. These are: the charge of an electron, the ratio of electron mass to proton mass (the 137 figure), the gravitational constant, the cosmological constant and a couple of others.

One of the many things that puzzles philosophically-inclined scientists is that there's not a lot of wiggle room for these constants. If the charge on the electron (and hence proton) is a lot higher, then electrons will bind so tightly to the nucleus that chemical reations won't happen. If the cosmological constant isn't 1.0 to a lot of decimal places, the universe would have a) expanded to quickly, or b) failed to expand at all. And so on. The puzzle is: how is it that this universe got created, with the fundamental constants at just the right values to create Nobel prize-winners, and not some other values that created a boring universe?

Something like this happens in mathematics. If you want an algebraically-complete (so that all polynomials of degree n have n roots) set of numbers which is also order-complete (so that every convergent sequence of numbers has a limit) that forms a field, then you can have the complex numbers. Or.... you can have the complex numbers. And if you want something different... you can't. Those requirements can be satisified only by the complex numbers and there's even a proof of it. Strictly, all models of those requirements are isomorphic. The theory is categorical - in second-order logic.

Mathematicians are not puzzled by this. In fact, they are rather pleased by it. The reason they aren't puzzled by it is because they have a proof of the uniqueness of the complex numbers. In all universes, and all civilisations, all algebraically-closed, complete number fields are isomorphic to the complex numbers. Why? Becuase proof.

To me, the lack of wiggle-room for the fundamental constants feels very similar. It says something like this: if we build a universe where the stable particles are electrons, neutrons, neutrinos, protons and photons (an e2n2p universe) then unless the fundamental constants are very close to the values in this universe, you get a boring universe. Why? Because proof.

The puzzle isn't about the values of the fundamental constants. It's why this universe is an e2n2p universe, and if there might be other ways of building molecules that don't use atoms made up of electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos and photons. What needs to be proved is: all universes must be e2n2p-universes or be boring.

You're going to remind me that there are quarks which make up neutrons and protons. Also other short-life hadrons, and muons, which also have short lives. For my purposes that doesn't matter. How the stable particles in a universe are constructed, or perhaps we should say, how the stable particles in a universe break down under high-energy collisions, isn't relevant. What's relevant is that the stable particles are what they are.

The Anthropic Principles are really a statement that a certain kind of theory is in a (possibly metaphorical) sense categorical. So what's really interesting is: can we build another universe out of stable particles that aren't isomorphic to the ones in this universe? And if we can, how much wiggle room is there for the values of the relevant fundamental constants? My guess is that, even if we can find an non-isomorphic set of fundamental particles, there won't be much wiggle-room.

(An "isomorphic set of particles"? Either treat it as a metaphor, or remember that fundamental particles correspond to generators of groups. So it would be the groups that were isomorphic.)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Commitment Isn’t A Gate You Can Keep

There’s a Sphere phrase that everyone repeats: women are the gatekeepers of sex, men are the gatekeepers of commitment. Everyone nods wisely. Except it’s not true.

Once the sex you’re having with her is done, she gets to decide if there’s going to be a next time. And she gets to stop you half-way through. She’s a doorman at a nightclub: just because you get in Wednesday night, doesn’t mean you’ll make it in Saturday night. That’s what being a gatekeeper means.

But once you’ve committed, you don’t get to throw her out if she misbehaves. She gets to throw you out if you misbehave. There’s no re-considering, there’s no natural break that gives you the chance to say NO to further commitment. Commitment isn’t a gate: it’s a leap over the cliff.

What men keep the gates of is attention, excitement, arousal and status.

In the past there was an option b): provisioning, attention, care and support. However, women can get jobs, and they get paid more than a man does for the same job. If they can’t get jobs, they can get welfare. If they lose their job, they can find another one faster than a man can. Men stopped being the gatekeepers of provisioning a long, long time ago.

Women are the gatekeepers of sex. Men are the gatekeepers of attention.