Mind War: Part Eleven -- Making Sense
You didn't think the mind war had ended, did you? (Note: to see parts 1 through 10, go check the Index.)
Reading an article recently I was struck by the English language idiom "make sense." This phrase has three definitions:
make sensea) to have a clear meaning and be easy to understand
Read this and tell me if it makes sense.
b) to be a sensible thing to do / it makes sense (for somebody) to do something
It makes sense to save money while you can.
Would it make sense for the city authorities to further restrict parking?
c) if something makes sense, there seems to be a good reason or explanation for it
Why did she do a thing like that? It doesn’t seem to make sense.
So if something makes sense, it is clear or logical or reasonable, right? "Does that make sense?" is a common followup to an explanation or plan (I will stop by the grocery store on the way home for pasta sauce and you get the pasta started -- does that make sense?).
Making sense is a judgement then: on behaviors, actions, or beliefs. And it has a positive connotation too. We want other people's plans and ideas to make sense. We want to make sense. We want the world to make sense.
But it occurred to me on hearing this phrase that there's another way of interpreting it: not judging the logic of others, but crafting it for yourself. Literally making sense as in creating structures that foster logic and reason in your own life. Because it's increasingly apparent that if we want stuff to make sense, then we'd better get busy making some for ourselves.
The last year plus in global politics has brought the lack of sense to the forefront of everyone's minds. A whole lot of people have been spending a whole lot of time and energy trying to make sense of what's happening -- and not just in the US. Now, I like to feel informed as much as the next person, but honestly? I don't think there is sense here to be made. It's not logical and it's not sensible, and it's not easy to understand. There's no reason or explanation.
I actually suspect that the current political environment makes as much sense as it has for a generation or two. It's just that while before we distracted from the illogic of the system, now we are bombarded by it.
You think this is because we're uninformed? Anti-intellectual? Distracted? Or is it because part of the power of the abuser is to steal the power of making sense from the abused. To gaslight, to confuse, to obfuscate... to make things so crazy that somehow it starts to not seem so crazy anymore. It starts out OK... maybe... at least they tell you it's OK. But so much crazy and so much confusion starts coming at you that you start to forget what sense even is.
Perfectly normal people, people who used to MAKE SENSE, driven to the point of senselessness. The crazy just gets worse and worse over time. Things that used to be inconceivable are now business as usual. This is how it works in too many abusive households and relationships. And this is how it's working for us now.
Can anyone really remember what, say, 2014 was like? Not like it was a Golden Age or anything, but can you remember what we worried about? What the news was like? How public officials comported themselves? Yeah, maybe that was a polished mahogany veneer over a rickety pressboard contraption, but there was some semblance of sanity and self-control in evidence... at least for the public. In fact in some ways it's better now because the we can actually start to see the monster under the mask -- a painful but ultimately necessary process. The polite and polished facade is crumbling and we are reeling.
Let me tell you now that what's going on doesn't make sense. That doesn't mean there's no agenda or plan, there probably is and it's probably evil. But evil doesn't mean logical -- and evil can be the opposite of sensible.
If you want your life to make sense, then roll up your sleeves and start making some sense for yourself. Because you are not going to find it watching the news. Make your own life logical and understandable for you. Make reason a priority and attempt to live and act in a way that you can explain to yourself. Remember that you can't explain or control the crazy that's going on.
Disclaimer: this doesn't mean you don't care or fight! It just means you stop trying to explain. Stand up against the crazy, but keep yourself protected from it. It's never going to make sense because there's no sense to it. We've all known bullies and abusers -- there's no point to trying to make sense of them. You're not an abuser, so you can't comprehend how they think. All you can do is identify them, call them out, and be the kind of person it's harder for them to victimize.
Here's my recipe for making a big old batch of sense:
- The big four: sleep, exercise, nature, vegetables. Just start there and you will be surprised at how much easier the rest gets. I know, it's not sexy. People want complex and easy (the system that will change your life) instead of simple but hard. But it really is that simple (and hard! I know).
- Healthy connections: you need people in your life who lift you up and support you, not people who drag you down. And that goes for family and friends. Drama is a choice and you can choose not to engage. Also, please note that activism and positivism are not mutually exclusive -- you could argue that being joyful is a form of powerful protest, a big FUCK YOU to the powers who want to drive you into despair.
- Integrity and internal logic: When the rest of the world is going crazy, having your own moral compass and sense of right and wrong can keep you sane -- and keep you from ending up in a real-life Milgram or Stanford Prison experiment. We think of values is something that right-wingers use to oppress people who they don't like. But tolerance, kindness, equality, and fairness are fucking values too. Don't let them corrupt the idea.
- Inner silence: we are inundated with noise -- both the literal din of the modern industrial world and the endless screeching of the politicorporadvertainment machine. You don't have to meditate (though meditation is awesome of course). All you have to do is find some stillness and listen to your own self for a bit.
- Preference ownership: stop waiting for other people to decide what you want and like. There's a pretty horrible movie called Runaway Bride where the central premise is that this women keeps jilting men at the altar in this small town (only Julia Roberts could get away with this). The reason is that she doesn't know who she is or what she likes or wants. This is symbolized in the movie by the fact that she claims to like her eggs cooked in the same way as each each of her various exes do (note the movie would have been much better if it had ended with her giving Richard Gere the finger and staying single, but no one ever asks me).
As banal as this is, have you ever thought about how much of what you like and value and care about comes from outside yourself? And not just from a person who you care about (I've been married for 23 years and let me tell you after a while your tastes do converge) but from some faceless corporate stooges?
- Locus of control: This came up in a recent newsletter (if you sign up to the left, you won't be left out) but having an internal locus of control is way psychologically healthier than an external one. In the end though, you only control yourself. I'm reminded of the litany of far-fetched scenarios for how Hillary could still end up as president after the election. None of those things were remotely likely and certainly none of them were under our control. So why would we spend time winding ourselves up emotionally over them?
Also, if you only control you, then you should not hand over that precious control to anyone else -- let alone the monsters in suits who are running things (into the ground).
We need to quit justifying and explaining away the craziness and start nurturing sanity. We need to be mindful of the state of our own minds. And we desperately need to stop trying to make the outside world make sense and instead actively prioritize making our own sense.
Ivy's personal maxims (v 4.0, April 2018):
1. Religion that's easy is wrong
2. Don't get offended, get pissed off
3. Life is too short to eat shit
4. Look where you want to go
5. It's better to look ordinary and actually be interesting than the reverse
6. Make your own sense