Coming to terms with being human.



I am easily bored. My mind is constantly searching for stimulation, often in the form of information and ideas. It is very difficult for me to just be. The easily bored find strange ways to fill time. I am known for reading the ingredient labels on restaurant condiments. One of the reasons I enjoy southern California more than my former home of Illinois is the wide variety of hot sauce bottles provided for my reading pleasure. In the Midwest everything is ketchup.
This drive for the novel is far removed from the adrenaline junky lifestyle of my MTV infected brethren. I am in many respects a sedentary person. Well, not so much sedentary as predictable. My idea of an action-packed evening is going to a cafe and actually talking to people instead of reading. The conflict is between the draw of the new and my easily over stimulated brain. My existence is defined by quick bursts of more, more, more and long periods of rest.
So I seek out brief times of solitude. In particular I enjoy the sight of blank billboards. There is something about blank spaces in the modern world that gives me chills. There are so few sacred spaces in the United States. Every inch is for sale.
Billboards are purposely designed to replace the beauty of the open sky with an image of the SUV that just passed me in the fast lane. If only some rich benefactor (or a monkeywrenching group) would cover all the billboards with pastel colors. After a month of passing only pleasingly colored rectangles in the sky we may again realize how gaudy and crass our cities have become.

I realize that not everyone is as easily over stimulated as I am. Still, something really needs to change.


Tonguing van Gogh

The brain is an amazing chunk of meat. Not only does it get us through our day, but it can do parlor tricks. Case in point, the seeing tongue.
Yes, scientists have developed a way to train your tongue to see. More specifically, they have created a device that stimulates the tongue in a manner that the brain can interpret as sight. How cool is that?!
Think of the implications of this sort of research. The benefits for the sight impaired are obvious, but what about people in general? Data from a video camera can be constructed as visual perception through the tongue. Why put the camera in front of a person's face? Hook my tongue to live CNN video feed.
If sight can be rewired, what about other senses? Can we stimulate every sense through the tongue?
Anyway, I'm going to go stick my tongue in an XBox and play some Halo.


Who pulls the strings?

A lot of people are uncomfortable with me being on Paxil. There are two main objections. First, medication is a crutch. I am not facing real issues. Second, medication masks the true me. I understand these concerns. I even agree, in part, with the first. The basis of the second question, that there is a self beyond the one I experience on Paxil, is outside of my own philosophy.
Sixth grade was all ulcers and migraines. My family life was great and I was getting straight A's but one day I just couldn't feel. Everything that I previously enjoyed, including my friends, felt distant and gray. For a while I decided I was a Vulcan (you are reading the ramblings of a geek) and embraced my unemotional self. Junior high, however, is not the time to be stoic among your peers. My stress grew and the first line of this paragraph came to pass.
Eventually some emotions came back, namely anger and disgust. Thankfully this dynamic duo of feeling worked perfectly in high school. I gained new anti-social friends who were also balls of rage and angst. Anger let me feel alive. If I wasn't raging I wasn't living. When I was angry I wanted to kill others, when I wasn't I wanted to kill myself.
By my young twentys the anger had gone and so had the daily feeling of helplessness. In it's place was extreme anxiety, paranoia, and deeper (but less consistent) depressions. Anxious people are difficult to understand and befriend. Still, I gained a few close friends over time. Anxious Matt was nicer than Hostile Matt. One of my friends is soon to become my wife. This is why I decided to get a handle on my emotional problems.
I am now free of paranoid thoughts and anxiety. I haven't experienced a depression for two months, so that is probably gone too. I still have problems, but these problems aren't created in my head. They are real problems with people, and money, and mosquitos. I actually deal with these problems now instead of locking myself in my apartment or using back alleys to get to a cafe (I was afraid to talk to the people at the front door). Even if there is a real me, I prefer Paxil Matt.
So ask yourself this question. Is there a true self that expresses itself through the brain? If there is, then I probably am wrong in taking this drug. The real me is still depressed and anxious and suicidal. But if there isn't a real self in that sense, what is the self? What makes us us? Who pulls the strings?


Where is this going?

Beginning in August, I will begin discussing human nature in depth. Each month's posts will address a certain question or theme. I want feedback from all of you. When my web building skills improve, I will create ways for you to respond.
"All of you"? I am really cocky, aren't I? There is absolutely no one reading this site right now. Obviously I am assuming that someone will go back to the first post in my archives because my future writings will be so riveting. Ah well, why blog if you are not self absorbed?
For the lone late-night surfer who has stumbled on this site in it's infancy go to the Buttercup Festival. Strange name, stranger comics.



In reverse order, two months ago I started taking Paxil, two years ago I became a Psychology major, and at the age of nineteen I became a Christian. Each of these events have caused me to wonder what it means to be me. I desire clarity on the question of human nature. Every moment brings change so what, if anything, is permanent in me? I have some ideas, but no answers.