Tag Archives: scarcity

Being Mindful of Transgressions

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

A few years back I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat in Cooksville, Ontario. It was a ten-day retreat based on the teachings of S.N. Goenka, and in addition to the long hours of meditation there were also a series of observances each attendee was required to accept. The complete list escapes me, but the most important ones were: no talking, no electronics, no eating of meat, no killing another living creature, no meals after midday and NO STEALING. Quite unexpectedly, this last observance was problematic for me and breaking this guideline led to perhaps my greatest lesson about mindfulness,

It was late February and snowy during the retreat and when entering the meditation hall we would ditch our jackets and boots in the foyer area which would, not surprisingly, get wet and dirty. At one point I was the last one into the hall and since the outer door was ajar and my own boots were a pain to slip on and off, I slipped into someone else’s boots to close the door. Instantly, and very unexpectedly I was overcome with a feeling of guilt; I had just stolen.

Was it temporary theft? Yes, only three to five seconds.

Did it cause any deprivation? No, the owner of the shoes was already in the hall starting his practice.

Was it for a good purpose? Yes, I was closing the door to keep us all warm.

But I knew all of that didn’t matter from a morality perspective.

Now, at this point I want to reiterate that I don’t really buy into morality myself, but I still was troubled because the person who owned the boots likely did. And this transgression, paltry and trifling though it may have been, was still an act of theft.

I brought this up to one of the meditation leaders, Bob at the next day’s optional counseling session. He was shocked when I mentioned I had stolen but as he heard me out he asked if, out in the real world I would have thought twice about slipping on those shoes. I told him “probably not.” According to him, it was a good thing to have happened because it showed that I was starting to think in more mindful terms, looking at the implications of my actions and considering the damage they could do in their ultimate expressions (i.e. larger theft, mugging or the taking of life-giving essentials). For me, it was an important beginning of looking at the things I was doing in my life and extrapolating them out to their logical conclusions and ultimate ends.

I think that very often we glaze over the fact that we let our ends justify our means because the negative means we employ on a day-to-day basis very often seem so trifling and paltry. For example, we would all likely have at least some compunction about taking a life, even if it was for the positive end of saving many. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s called empathy and it’s a good thing. However, our empathy is rarely sensitive or trained enough to consider that even something comparatively benign, say the act of marking up a price so that you can feed your own family, even that is a negative means for an ostensibly positive end. It is causing deprivation to one group to alleviate the deprivation of another. Survival at the expense of others cheapens the lives of all.

I don’t mean to come down on anyone here who has to eke out their survival at the expense of others. If that was my intent, I would be coming down on everyone including myself; such is the nature of our competitive socio-economic system: we are all complicit in instituting deprivation against each other. Nor do I mean to give a scathing indictment of our current scarcity-based socio-economic system; I have done that ad nauseum and I will certainly do so again at certain points in the future. Rather, I simply mean to shed light on the fact that we should be mindful of our actions, no matter how trifling or benign they seem and be aware that if those actions were amplified by orders of magnitude, they just might be more violent and deprivation-causing than we realize.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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HA HA! DATING!

“I have infinite hate in my blood; it’s mainly cause of the game of love.”
-Eminem, “Love Game

Friends,

A few months back I found myself newly-single. It wasn’t a bitter event; just two people who had simply grown apart. But for the first time in five years or so I found myself back in the dating game, and I was determined to be more mature and respectful about dating than I had been been as a walking hard-on back in my mid-20s. After all, you can’t be a jackass your whole life.

lemon
Or can you?…

Honesty (General)

Now I have to confess, relationship endings are often blurry affairs so I was already talking to and getting to know some people while still technically in a relationship. I guess I needed to fill that vacuum of companionship that had developed as me and my ex had grown apart. But the upshot was that psychologically I already had a little bit of momentum when I became single for realz, as opposed to previous break-ups where I basically found myself suddenly alone and feeling adrift and desperate. So with said momentum, the break-up came like a starting shot for a race, and I was off!
But like I said, I’m more mature than I was five years ago and I had a different set of priorities vis a vis relationships. I realized that I didn’t (don’t) want a traditional monogamous relationship as I have known thus far. Instead, I wanted (want) beautiful experiences with beautiful people. Some people call that poly-amory or other things, but anyone who reads my blog knows I’m not big on labeling things. So while I don’t know what to call what I want, romantic relationships for me must meet four important criteria:

1) Fun
2) Comfortable
3) Loving*
4) Not Possessive

And boy oh boy, have I ever taken flak for this. I have met some lovely, yet jaded women who see me as what is wrong with the dating world. Basically a guy who doesn’t want to make a commitment, and who wants to perpetually date or hang out. And for these viewpoints I have some sympathy, but only to a point, because I am not against commitment, or as I phrase it, making an investment in someone. However, I don’t want said commitment to preclude a beautiful experience with someone else.

If you’re fine and you won’t front, I don’t wanna be your man but I’ll hook ya up.”
-Coolio (NOT 2-Pac), Rollin’ With My Homies

The problem to me ultimately comes down to scarcity and abundance. Perhaps as a result of our competitive, scarcity-based socio-economic market system, people often go into the world of dating with a scarcity mind-set, worried that they can’t give away too much of what they have (vagina, money, etc.) without getting a commensurate amount in return. And, if you are in a relationship with that person, you are expected not to give too freely of what you have as they have proprietary rights to your sexuality,flirtatious overtures and even money.
Fuck that noise! I’m operating with an abundance mindset and what I have to offer to romantic partners I have in infinite supply (not money lol) so why would I (or they) share that beauty with only one person? That external restriction/ownership/scarcity mentality has fucked up everything else in the world, are we really gonna let it poison relationships?
Well yes apparently, as I have recently found out lol.
Another fairly major change between me now and last time I was single, is that I am not interested in hooking-up (sex) just to say I did or to get “my number” up. Mostly I don’t like the feeling of emptiness I’ve been left with during past one-nighters, but a big part of this is number 2 on my criteria list: Comfort. If there isn’t comfort as a result of familiarity not only will it not be enjoyable, but more often than not I will have trouble performing (as certain ladies reading this might be able to attest to :-S). So I am very up front and honest with people at the outset about what my priorities and desires are because I don’t want a relationship predicated on a lie. Someone will be unfulfilled, hurt or both.

Honesty (Specific)

On the topic of being up front and honest with people is also not being ashamed of particular desires. If there’s a certain way you like to fuck, that you might have grown accustomed to, but that might be a little outside the realm of normative sexuality (as if there is such a thing) bringing it up to a new partner can bring some anxiety. Rather than getting into the best way to bring things up in the bedroom (or my own personal tried and true method of bringing kinks up lol) I will just say that I have learned to be just as open and up front about these predilections and desires as I am about my broader relationship objectives. Life is, after all, too short for mediocre sex.

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Pretty much this exactly…

Work Ethic

I don’t really love using the word “work” in relation to dating and relationships but it takes discipline to put yourself out there and in my experience “out there” is where the adventures happen. For example, when I found myself single I began to challenge myself to cold-approach at least one girl a day. For those not in the know, a “cold approach” would be chatting up a random girl in public. It’s a hard sell, especially with the feminist backlash against cat-callers and other harassers, but overall I find that approaching earnestly and honestly perhaps segue-ing into it after making conversation is a safe bet. I often (okay, usually) won’t get a number, but I have yet to be accused of patriarchal oppression. #GreatJob!
I have a few other things to say about cold approaches so bear with me:
Like many men in the early to mid 2000s, I read Neil Strauss’ book, The Game and was captivated by it. Having read it before a planned backpacking excursion to Australia, I joined the Mystery Method forum which the book told of (now The Attraction Forums) and put up an open ad saying that I was a Canadian sarger (or pick-up artist) traveling all around Australia and I wanted to work with different members in different cities. And WORK we did. We hit the bars hard and challenged to ourselves to chat up every group we could. It was scary. But then something happened; it stopped being scary. By getting over approach-anxiety I was able to have more natural, less contrived conversations with women which I can only imagine they appreciated more than some nervous guy stuttering some canned opener. Sure, every night we needed to warm up and the first few “sets” as we affectionately called them were always a crapshoot, but by and large we ended up talking to many gorgeous and wonderful women who might otherwise have been too intimidating to approach. Simply put, we spent so much time outside of our comfort zones that they grew to accommodate us (our comfort zones, that is). To get back to my point in a roundabout way, I am in the process of getting back to that serene place where I can approach any woman regardless of my insecurities (of which there are many) or her physical beauty or social standing. If you think about it, those latter two things are really superficial and stand as an impediment to genuine and meaningful human relations, so training myself to disregard them is actually a service to humanity.
And yes, to answer your next question, I do in fact, believe all my bullshit. 😀
The other thing I wanted to say about cold-approaching is that I have often brought it up when speaking with other actors, making the point that it is analogous to auditioning; The more you do it the less anxious you are, the less anxious you are, the more you put the casting directors at ease and everybody is happy. And in both auditions and cold-approaches sometimes you can do everything right and still not get the role or the phone number. Maybe they wanted a different look or she had a boyfriend and maintains a steadfast devotion to monogamy beyond the point of reason. Who knows!? It happens, but you can still learn from these experiences and walk away with a satisfaction that you only get from laying yourself bare and truly connecting with someone.

Age May Be Nothing But a Number, But it’s An Important Number

A peculiar thing happens when you chat up girls on the street and not just in bars. You see, the real world has no bouncer making sure everyone is of age, so very often you find yourself talking to someone who is “south of proper” with regard to age. I don’t know if its a really uncomfortable rite of passage or what, but you will never forget the first time you find yourself talking with a girl and upon some romantic/suggestive word from you, she reveals that she is underage. All you can really do is smile and eject from the situation. In fact, it would be really handy occasion to have a smoke pellet to facilitate escape.

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NINJA, VANISH!

I don’t know what it is, but this shit never happened to me until I started approaching 30 and it got especially creepy. I will say two final things about this: 1) the reality that you could chat up a girl who is criminally underage creates an imperative that you approach women respectfully and perhaps not be too forward at the outset. Not only is it more tactful but you might avoid committing a crime, and 2) Always know the age of consent.

Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number: Part II + Avoiding the Hatred Pitfall
But here we got off on a tear about jailbait when there are actually much more sublime implications to age as it pertains to relationships. Like, for example, the difference between a girl who is 20 and a girl who is 28. By and large I find the latter much more receptive to my particular brand of honest, sincere and deliberate intention. And, old maid anxiety notwithstanding, older women are usually more comfortable about exploring relationships outside the conditioned norms. On the other hand, younger girls frustrate the shit out of me. Remember at the beginning of this post where I said I wanted to approach dating in a mature and respectful way? Well, some motherfuckers aren’t gonna respect you unless you’re an asshole to them. Or they flake out on you if you make yourself too available. The shit can be infuriating. I know I should probably avoid people who force me to use artifice and cunning in the pursuit of them, but what can I say, sometimes my dick is in the driver’s seat and doesn’t want to stop at the gas station and ask my brain (or heart) for directions. However, I’ve been pretty successful at not hating these people, although I think it’s an easy trap to fall into. I think every guy reading this has had a revenge-fuck fantasy about some girl who snubbed him and that’s not really the route I wanna go, tempting though it may be. I wanna deal squarely with everyone, hard as that may be sometimes.
One thing I find works for me is always blaming myself for the success or failure of any interaction. At the end of the day I can only affect my own behaviour after all, so if a girl isn’t feeling me I evaluate how I could alter my approach for next time. It doesn’t matter that she may be nuttier than squirrel shit and an all-around unpleasant harpy who delights in the misery of men, that’s her business. My business is what it has always been: dealing with her and everyone else more lovingly and meaningfully. As soon as you take responsibility for the outcome of every interaction you have, you make it very difficult to hate other people because you’re constantly asking yourself what you could have done better, not “why are they so FUCKED?!”

Murkiness vs. Full Disclosure

Guys, have you ever asked a girl out expecting that she knew it was a date? You go out and get along swimmingly, you may even pay for everything to sweeten the deal and then she tells you she has a boyfriend, or doesn’t invite you in, etc.? Of course, we’ve all been here, and its even worse when you try and take it to that romantic level and it makes her uncomfortable and the rest of the time together becomes shitty and awkward. Let a girl know ahead of time where you stand even if it means risking “the friendship” because if you don’t you’re basically living a lie and putting unfair pressure on her. What are we really afraid of? When I think of every girl I’ve been friends with but also attracted to, not one of those friendships was too precious to subject to the light of truth and my actual intentions, and I regret past instances where I wasn’t forthright when I should have been.
Bottom line: if you are going to meet up with a girl and you have any doubt that she knows for sure its a date, let her know. You will save yourself approximately a metric shitload of heartache and you’re doing her a service as well because it lets her better plan which underwear to wear and whether to shave or not 😉

The Company Ink

Just kidding! there’s only company ink if you have an actual job. I on the other hand am an actor, or a freelancer if I wanna sound marginally more respectable. That said, I have probably fallen in love with at least 90% of my female co-stars and a goodly number of the crew members as well. I can’t help it! They’re fucking hot! And like me, they’re driven and aspire to something greater than the slow death of an ordinary life. What’s not to love? The people I work with on set are, by and large some of the most inspiring people I have ever met as they reflect back to me all of the things I like best about myself.
Buuuuuut, people talk and nobody wants to get the rep as that sleazy guy who hits on everyone on set. That’s not to say don’t hook up, but I’m not sure what my particular line is or if I even draw a line. On some level I am a creature of opportunity, and if some hot starlet was feeling me and was “bout it, bout it” I might find it difficult to focus on maintaining my reputation, such as it is.
*Note to female co-stars, past, present and future: I’m probably “into” you and would be amenable to getting to you know you better.

Moving Forward

Things are going okay I guess. But I’m realizing something very profound: these types of relationships I’m pursuing are not static. That is to say you don’t just have a couple of relationships that more or less take care of and maintain themselves. Instead, things are in a constant state of flux, and you’re only “with” someone when you’re with someone.

“Ma, our time together is our time together, and our time apart is our time apart.”
-Jay-Z, Girls, Girls, Girls (Remix)

It’s good in a lot of regards. It creates an imperative to “stay sexy,” and you don’t get bored of and stuck with people. Most importantly, its a constant reminder that life, like your relationships is in a constant state of flux, and the illusion of permanence is just that. So don’t hold onto things and people that no longer serve you. Instead, move forward righteously in the pursuit of beautiful experiences.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I am very loosey-goosey with my use of the word love. That’s not to say I use it in vain; in fact, I am very deliberate in my use of it but I recognize that it comes into play in more than just familial and long-term monogamous relationships. I think you have to love everyone and on some level I do, even a girl I just met. And if me and someone else can’t be loving to each other, even from the outset then we really got no business being with each other.

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Company Loves Misery

My Friends,
Some issues, while no-brainers, are divisive nonetheless.  Same-sex marriage is one of those issues.  Notwithstanding the the fact that term itself is steeped in legal bias and loaded language (“sex” as it pertains to the courts is a legal construct, as is the institution of marriage) what are we really putting our energies toward?  The notion that same-sex marriage is a sign of progress is predicated on the assumption that marriage is an ideal circumstance which is being denied to a segment of the population.  My chief qualm with such well-intentioned actions as people putting…

…this image up as their FB profile pic in a show of solidarity with same sex couples hoping to get married…
 
…is not that it is so-called “slacktivism,” but that they seemingly have not questioned the institution of marriage itself.  This is understandable but inexcusable.  We must constantly check our premises because no knowledge or custom we have is empirical; that is to say just because we have been doing something for a while does not make it universal truth.
   I posted this picture a while ago:
So I have to ask again: What are we really putting our energies toward?  Its funny to me how people will cognitively see the logic behind Stanhope’s criticism of marriage but still go on and argue for more access to marriage.  i.e. “Well, marriage may be an antiquated custom and an outgrowth of scarcity*, but everyone should have access to it.”  This is so typical of our usual methods of problem resolution where we are more concerned with surface appearance than deep, possibly messy, structural change.

“You’d rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel”
-Lt. Cedric Daniels, The Wire
Rather than removing a sickness we would rather ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to it.
The Political Action Feint
   I think same-sex marriage is just the latest in a string of accommodated, politically-safe movements which have been allowed because they don’t actually threaten the status quo but serve as great polarizing rallying points for different camps (i.e. Divide & Conquer).  LGBT rights are the successors to Women’s suffrage (& Lib later on) and the Civil Rights movement.  I don’t want to denigrate those movements but what did they actually accomplish and how deeply did they change things?  Women’s suffrage for example got women the right to vote.  Now certainly everyone should be equal in their so-called “rights,” but essentially women had a long hard battle for something which is ultimately meaningless.  In fact, more than meaningless, it is harmful because it perpetuates the delusion that we actually have a say, through politics, in how our countries are run.  (I’m not even going to get into how obsolete the concept of a nation-state actually is…)
   Similarly, movements to put women in the workplace came at a time when our levels of technological understanding were getting to the point that cutting the workday in half for every man was looking like a reality.
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come -namely, technological unemployment.  This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.”

But instead of minimizing the workday through automation processes, everyone (women included) now has a McJob which on top of being typically underpaid is also technologically pointless and socially irrelevant.  Do women really feel like they won something in this regard?  (Note: I am not blaming women joining the workforce for the proliferation of McJobs I just want to point out that the workforce doubled when the workday was ready to be halved.  The reasons it weren’t halved are many but come down to people needing access to work for income.)

   Fast forward to the civil rights movement and we see more accommodation.  Now rather than paraphrase George Carlin here I will just put down a direct quotation because he said it so aptly:
“I don’t really, honestly, deep down believe in political action.  I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to.  It accommodates these changes.  I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country.  I think they see where their self-interest lies; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good -an illusion of liberty- give these people a voting day every year so they will have the illusion of meaningless choice.”
…”The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.”
-George Carlin, incisive as always
 
Bearing this point of view in mind, what did civil rights really achieve?  Well black people in the south can ride the front of the bus, so there’s that at least.  Also, segregation is not legally sanctioned anymore, and we all know that if something is not legal people won’t do it.
Bitch Please!
 
In my own personal estimation very little was accomplished in the civil rights movement beyond black folk gaining nominal “equality” with the white lower and middle classes who are just as disenfranchised as segregated blacks were.
“Congratulations on your equality, black people.  Here are your new peers.”
 
This same issue came up recently when a girl I know tried to convince me that I had some great advantage over her as a male. Ummm…no.
   Look at the circumstances of those you seek equality with before you set equality with them as your endgame.  You might be sorely disappointed to find out they have it as bad or worse than you.  To clarify, I don’t deny that certain groups have endured terrible injustices throughout history; slavery. internment, persecutions have all happened at various times and in various places and it would be insensitive to deny the significance of these events.  However, I contend that such instances are outgrowths of a general inequality which still exists at all times even if a certain visible demographic is not being targeted.
On Using One Story to Distract you From Another
   Now there are a lot of (more or less) well-intentioned libertarian groups who point out that the same-sex marriage issue in the news is meant to detract from important news like the Monsanto Protection bill.  In a reductive sense, these news outlets (Death Before Disinformation et al.) are absolutely right.  But on the other hand any government could just as easily have the media focus on the Monsanto bill to distract the population from something else.  Neither the Monsanto bill nor the same sex marriage issue are fundamental, foundational issues.  Rather they can both be used as needed to distract people from more fundamental issues.  This is the problem with libertarianism (and any -ism really): when you define your position as counter to big government, you make a boogie monster out of it and end up endowing all of its actions as evil (which is not realistic) instead of looking at the causal chain of events which sets the government in opposition to its people.
Back to Well Intentioned (Sl)Activism)
   I realize I got off on a bit of a tangent there, but tangential discussions are useful in that they provide evidence for how all things are connected.  Every issue in society shares a common thread with every other issue, hence the tangents.  Hence too my admonishments toward reductive and limited agitation for one narrow goal.  I mean how can I really be expected to get riled up for women’s rights…
…when they don’t do fuck all for this kid?
 
How am supposed to give a shit about starving kids in Africa when feeding them still doesn’t protect…
…these women from rapists.
 
Even then, how am I supposed to agitate for women’s rights when doing so would not serve…
…the homosexuals who live in fear of violent reprisals for their orientations.  
 
Finally, how can I profess to be a supporter of the gays, the women or the visible racial minorities when  supporting those groups does nothing for…
…the straight white males.  That fabled privileged class who rules the world.
 
   I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I want to get the point across that any well-intentioned action which is not specifically calculated to improve the life of EVERYONE on the planet in a tangible way is just so much masturbation; nothing more than a way to make you feel good without actually doing anything.
That may seem like a tall order but there are channels to go through which would have a net positive effect on the planet and everyone in it if more people were aware of them.  First, an understanding of causality is required so that you can look at all the ills of the world and trace the causal chain of all of them back to a common mechanism.  Then you simply suspend and impede all actions which support that mechanism.
Ok, so its not that simple.  And if you look at the track record of people who have challenged the status quo at a structural level you see that it can be a hazardous endeavour.   Martin Luther King and Gandhi got assassinated because they attacked the roots of the inequality which pervades society and offered an effective weapon against it in the form of non-violent non-participation.  Whatever issues they started out as champions of, at some point they realized that they were fighting something bigger and that meaningful change could only come from addressing that bigger thing.
By comparison, Gloria Steinem and Jesse Jackson are still alive.  I am not saying they are not well-intentioned people who didn’t do important work, but their messages were hardly rallying cries which every person on the planet could get behind.
And this is just it.  If you want to help the gays, you can’t do that by loving the gays.  You gotta love everyone.  That means we gotta break down these barriers of seeing other groups as separate and apart from us, and other people as separate and apart from us as well.  You’ll find that when you do this there are very few popular movements to run with.  The established, accepted agitation groups represent only fragments of the population and so are necessarily exclusive in some respect.  Furthermore, by hoping to have legislation passed, they know better than to piss on the carpet.  In other words they don’t cross certain lines and instead they play ball with lawmakers.  They have to.  Chances are, if any politician is talking about any movement, that movement has already been corrupted and is therefore safe for political approval and backing.
The right issues are not the popular ones.  The important questions are the ones few, if any, are asking.  To get back to the initial point of this post.  Always check what you are actually fighting for, whether its marriage rights, minority rights or whatever.  Critical thought may reveal that you are not aiming high enough in your aspirations.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo*When I refer to marriage as an outgrowth of scarcity, I mean it literally.  What better way to ensure a potential suitor doesn’t leave your daughter when she turns out to be infertile or otherwise burdensome than to have the union legally ratified and unbreakable?  Although we dress it up now, its the same prevailing logic behind things like common-law status for two people living together.  If the more financially stable one decides to up and leave the other it can be economically disadvantageous so we brought the government into the equation (much to the chagrin of Mr. Stanhope) to arbitrate between the haves and have-nots.

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