On Failure

It is generally helpful to give yourself permission to fuck up. It’ll happen. It is part of learning. We learn, mostly, by making mistakes. By trying out what doesn’t work and adjusting our behaviour away from that. Fearing failure means paralysis.

This is something I have seen an online friend struggling with and, honestly, my heart goes out to him. He complains of never having had a life, about not reaching various adult milestones, and lamenting that he cannot change because he’s afraid of fucking it up. The thing is, the catch: you have to fuck up in order to grow. It’s not optional, because this is how we grow.

This is something, to some extent, I have struggled with myself. I can say without much ego that I am a very intelligent person. I come from a family of successful physicians, and I work in a profession where very little leeway is made for mistakes. When I was young my parents were the kind who expected fast success, and were critical of me when it didn’t come. I learned to learn fast; to make mistakes early and privately, and then manifest (what looks like) effortless success in public, where possible.

This might sound good for me, but it has left me with some blinds spots and deficits. I do lack certain aptitudes, one of them is a strong sense of numeracy. When I enrolled in university I was originally a computer science major, but chickened out of it because mathematics was a required class. I ended up studying psychology instead in order to get away from math, but the sweet irony of it was that I ended up needing a strong mathematical skillset in order to pass statistics. I also, ultimately, got a job in the field of computer science! Things probably would have turned out better for me if I just sucked up my fear of failing at math and struggled with that one math course I needed to take in order to progress in the computer science program.

More proximally, learning the saxophone has been a struggle for me. This mainly has to do with reading musical notation. I absolutely hate the system that has been bodged together that we use to write music. It is confusing and inconsistent, and was primarily created for the writer, not the reader. In picking up the saxophone I was undertaking something I would not be immediately successful at.

Last night at my lessons we were trying out a new activity. Sight reading in real time. It was a deeply unpleasant struggle for me. Even though I have been practising the notes and their position on the staff, I still struggle with perfect recall. The pressure of looking incompetent made things worse, with fed in on itself. My emotions got the better of me and I became upset.

Between practice sessions I have been trying to change my attitude. I have been thinking (and I’m paraphrasing here) to myself, repeatedly:

You are going to fail. You will make mistakes. You’re not good at a lot of the skills needed to play the saxophone. If you want to play, it is going to be a struggle. This will not be easy, nor should you expect it to be. Reaching your goals takes effort, sacrifice, and patience. If you want to know the joys of success, your going to have to put up with these feelings.

I will never be a John Coltrane. He was an exception among exceptions. But if I don’t try (and fail) I will never get to be me.

I want to have sax

I have been a lifelong music appreciator. I have mp3s on my phone from as far back as two decades ago, passed on from device to device. Either ripped from a CD I bought at HMV, or downloaded from KaZaA. I love my music collection. It spans decades, genres, and occasionally, languages. A big reason for spinning up my web server was so I could keep it backed up by FTP. I routinely will listen to albums front-to-back while doing nothing else but enjoying the music. On occasion I’ve sat with lyric sheets to read along while listening.

However I have never really been able to make music. I was in band and choir in high school, but being a late-joiner (my HS started at grade 7 and I joined in grade 8) I missed out on the fundamentals of how to read music. Nobody really cared to catch me up. I guess I didn’t care enough either, as I never really invested any kind of commitment into band & choir. Its not that I didn’t want to do music, I just thought band and choir to be lame and religious (ergo: lame) respectively.

Recently I was recommended the album Giant Steps by John Coltrane. I have always liked jazz so it didn’t take much to get me to give it a listen. I’m glad I did; This album changed everything.

I know that musical taste is highly subjective, but this album is perfection. I lack the words to describe how moving it is due to my aforementioned lack of training in musical theory.

After a few listens I decided that I wanted to access that state of mind. I want to know the state of mind which produced that beauty. So I went out to the music store near my house and signed up for saxophone lessons and rented an instrument. I start this Wednesday. I have no silly belief that I’ll ever be able to play like Coltrane, however I want to at least know what it feels like to hold a saxophone and blow into it, thus creating music. If I can play 1% as good as Coltrane, I will know 1% of that mind state. If I’m able to know 1% of that mind state, then I’ll be able to extrapolate.

A few thoughts on having Mental Health

My life has been something of a struggle the past couple of months. Online friends may have noticed a silently decreased presence. I’ve been struggling with my health. The problems have been mainly emotional, however, there have been physical issues as well. I won’t go too deep into the reeds with this one; suffice it to say, I’ve been suffering deeply.

It started with a few nights in a row getting poor sleep. If it wasn’t one thing it was another: I was too hot, I ate too much, I mismanaged my intake of substances, something upset me before bed, something excited me before bed, I was too cold, ect. I have posted about this issue in the past.

At any rate, a few nights in a row of disturbed sleep was all it really took. Eventually I reached a point where my circadian rhythm was completely disrupted and my life spun out of control. At that point it didn’t even take a sleep-disruption anymore to result in a poor night’s sleep. I was going weeks on end with maybe 2-4 hours of sleep a night. Completely insufficient for maintaining health, and my body and mind were deteriorating.

I wish I could say I’ve made a complete recovery, but unfortunately I’m not there yet. In order to kick-start my circadian rhythm I needed to resort to daily sleeping pill use. At first, that didn’t cut it, and I had to add antidepressant use as well. I’m currently taking an antidepressant called mirtazipine, which in addition to being an antidepressant, also causes sedation (which helps falling asleep). Right now I’m off the sleeping pills but I am still taking the antidepressants and melatonin supplement nightly.

I don’t like being on antidepressants, but they are helping. The thing is, I don’t feel clinically depressed right now. I actually went through a short period of hypomania on them that I needed to suppress. I suffered from clinical depression previously, in my teenage; I guess you could say I’m in remission. I’m reluctant to stop using the antidepressants, because I was suffering deeply from lack of sleep. But now, everything feels kind of fake. The medication has given my waking life a vaguely-unpleasant dream-like quality, whilst also being… not happy, but anti-depressed. It sucks, it feels unwholesome.

Worst is, the antidepressants blunt my feelings of metta, or loving-kindness. I’m still able to practice, but the feeling is distinctly less pronounced. It requires more effort to produce a feeling with half the intensity. Which, in of it self, makes me feel… not depressed, but wistful.

At least its way better than the anti-psychotics I tried for off-label use as a sleep aid. Those made me feel like I was drowning in a stupor of mental dullness. And they also didn’t work to get me to sleep. One night was all I needed to know that I never want to take that mind-poison ever again.

At any rate, my aunt, who is a psychiatrist, encouraged me to take the somewhat-helpful antidepressants and the thoroughly unhelpful anti-psychotics. She termed what she observed me having as a kind of “lucid depression” wherein I had the physical symptoms of depression without the affective (emotional) symptoms. This seems to be a word she made up on the spot, because a web search returned nothing. If this is the case, I chalk up the maintenance of my lucidity within the depths of chronic suffering to my dharma/meditation practice. So even though I’m not doing great, this experience has been confidence boosting for me. Dharma practice really has fortified me with indispensable mental tools.

I really hope to re-invigorate my practice after this episode of poor health has blown over.

Meditation on Death

18-Jun-2016

Instructions: Read the italics text silently to yourself and do as instructed. Read the bold text out loud. Remain mindful of your emotional state throughout the reading. Carry forward the principles of previous instructions into subsequent lines, unless directly instructed otherwise. If a specific line becomes overwhelming, return to the previous line until the feeling-tone becomes neutral, and try it again. If the practice as a whole becomes overwhelming, switch to a samatha practice (calming meditation), and try again at a later time. Be persistent.

Enter a place of solitude and guard your thoughts. Examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Next, consider the death of beings, with mind undistracted, thus: “I shall die; I shall enter the realm of death; I shall not escape death.” Remain mindful of the feeling-tone in your mind and body as you contemplate this phrase over and over, and do so until the felling-tone becomes neutral.

Consider in inevitability of death by repeating “My death is inevitable. There is no skill or cause that can make my life immortal. Just as when the sun and the moon rise, no skill or cause can make them turn back, so to can no skill or cause stop my own death.”

Next consider the timeliness of your death, by repeating the following phrases until the feeling-tone becomes neutral:

  • I may die in old age
  • I may die in a decade
  • I may die in a year
  • I may die in a month
  • I may die in a week
  • I may die within the day
  • I may die within the hour
  • I may die in the next breath
  • There is no sign of death. There is no fixed time when death will occur. The time of my death is impossible to predict.

Contemplate the manner of your death suchly:

  • I may die from infectious or parasitic diseases
  • I may die from wearing out of the body
  • I may die from lack of food or drink
  • I may die from fire or drowning
  • I may die from heat or cold
  • I may die from being attacked by an animal
  • I may be murdered, or die in violence, or war
  • I may die from an accident
  • I may die from dementia
  • I may die spontaneously, from no assignable cause

Consider the non-discriminating universality of death:

  • Kings who possessed great treasures, and beings who were of great social power, and all other kings, entered the state of death
  • The many sages of old, who possessed great supernormal power, and who caused fire and water to issue forth from their bodies, also entered the state of death.
  • The great hearers of old, the Venerable Elders, who were possessed of immense wisdom and power, also entered the state of death.
  • The many Buddhas and arahants who attained enlightenment, and who were endowed with all virtue, also entered the state of death
  • The Consummate, Supremely Enlightened, Matchless One, who manifested boundless compassion, purity, and wisdom, also entered the state of death.
  • All beings who were before my time died, all beings who are alive now will die, and all those who are born in the future, will also enter the state of death.
  • All those who I am close to, all those who I am far from, and all those who I don’t know, will also enter the state of death.
  • All animals, all plants, all fungi, all microorganisms, all that which lives will enter the state of death. Death is the final condition for all beings.

Next, be mindful of death in the impermanence of the moment, in the same manner: “In the past conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the future conscious moment, one did not live, one is not living, one will not live. In the present conscious moment, one did not live, one will not live, only one is living”

Take some time to examine how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. Finally, contemplate the benefits of this practice, once: “The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is possessed of diligence as regards the higher meritorious states, and of dislike as regards the demeritorious. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death is not greedy or stingy, does not cling to things, and is endowed with the perception of impermanence and the perception of not-self. The practitioner who practises mindfulness of death fares well and approaches the ambrosial. When this practitioner comes to die, there is no bewilderment. The practitioner, through steadfast mindfulness of death, develops the perception of disagreeableness. But owing to facility in the perception of disagreeableness with facility in steadfast mindfulness, the mind grows to be undisturbed. When the mind is undisturbed, the practitioner is able to destroy the hindrances and cause the arising of the meditation factors”

Rough draft of my Mastodon Instance Rules

I am posting the following so I may get feedback from the Fediverse community before committing to starting an instance.

The guiding principles for the instance’s acceptable posting policy holds its roots in the Buddhist Five Precepts, namely:

  1. I undertake to train myself to kill as little as possible
  2. I undertake to train myself to abstain from taking that which is is not freely given
  3. I undertake to train myself abstain from sexual misconduct
  4. I undertake to train myself to abstain from unwholesome speech
  5. I undertake to train myself to abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness.

It’s important to understand the precepts not as rules to be blindly followed in order to achieve enlightenment, but as guidelines deliberately created by the Buddha for living harmoniously with others. Living by the precepts will not enlighten you, but violating the precepts will make attaining enlightenment difficult, both for yourself and those around you.

Another thing to understand is that these precepts are laid out as a standard of interaction on this instance. I am not asking people to live by this code in their personal lives, just to observe it during their interactions within this community.

What these precepts mean in practical terms, as applied to online moderation, will be described in turn below. These precepts apply principally to users of this instance. However, users from other instances, or other instances as a whole, may be blocked as a means of protecting this community.

1: I undertake to train myself to kill as little as possible.

This means that this server is deliberately a pacifist place for nonviolent discourse. This means that any incitement to violence, murder, capital punishment, or aggression is strictly forbidden, no matter what the justification may be. I am not willing to comment on what kind of violence can be morally justified, because I believe that is a determination the individual must make for themself on a case-by-case basis. That is a determination that can only be made by an individual, for their own actions, which carry their own consequences to bear. In the context of public discourse, all incitements to killing are disallowed.

2: I undertake to train myself to abstain from taking that which is not freely given

All enticements encouraging theft or piracy are disallowed. As is enticing others to acquire things/resources through deception, con-artistry, subterfuge, misrepresentation, or lying by omission.

This rule also means that practices that exert manipulation of others to pressure them into giving things unfairly are forbidden. This includes all talk encouraging the practices of capitalism.

This rule requires an explanation of wether theft is justifiable in the context of a fundamentally unfair capitalist society. Although I realize that, especially in a capitalist society, those with capital often acquire it through exactly these means, I believe that resorting to the same means to “even the playing field” does one the same existential damage. Weather you believe it is justifiable to pirate media or shoplift in order to “get back” at capitalism is your business, but encouraging others to is not allowed in this space.

As such, I strongly encourage people in this space to limit their their involvement with capitalism as much as possible, and to develop the practice of true generosity (giving freely without the expectation of anything in return).

Regarding “begposting”, you are allowed to ask for monetary assistance on this instance and retoot others’ requests for monetary assistance. However, it must be understood that this instance is not meant to be a place for fundraising. Any such, requests for monetary assistance may only be made a maximum of three times per month (counting separately, requests for oneself and requests made on the behalf of another). This may seem like an arbitrary limit, and to some extent it is, however it is rooted in the tradition of some Buddhist orders directing monks to ask for assistance no more than 3 times for a given issue. If you feel your (or others’) circumstances are especially dire, there is some flexibility here; please reach out to the admin if you wish to discuss the matter. Admittedly, I do feel uneasy about publishing this particular rule, as I do wish people will take up generosity as a spiritual practice; however that must be a decision they make for themselves. It must be remembered that abstention against taking that which is not freely given includes abstaining from placing pressure on others. If someone is feeling pressured to give, and gives out of a sense of obligation or pity rather than self-generated compassion, then their giving is not done out of true generosity.

Commercial advertising on this instance will result in a summary ban. Advertising for artisanal goods is allowed and encouraged.

3. I undertake to train myself to abstain from sexual misconduct

This means that all sexual interactions must have free, informed, and prior consent from all parties, and that sexual interactions must take place in private. I believe it is impossible for certain people to give free, informed, and prior consent, and as such, discourse/media that encourages or depicts sex with the following groups is strictly forbidden:

  • Children
  • Animals
  • People who are mentally incompetent, such as people who are under the influence of drugs; or people who have medical conditions that limit their ability to make rational decisions, such as dementia or intellectual disability
  • People you have social or institutional power over (for example, having sex with one of your employees or students)

In the context of public posting, all text/media that make allusions to genitalia/sex must be CW’d.

Regarding sex work, I believe that sex workers have the right to benefit from this community and they are welcome here. However, this community is not the appropriate place to solicit sex or advertise sexual services.

The requirement to CW talk of genitalia/sex does not apply at all to talk of sexual orientation or gender. This space is deliberately welcoming of all sexual orientations and genders. In other words, this is a safe space for all LGBTQIA+ people.

This space is also deliberately welcoming to people who are asexual, and sexual people who have decided to remain voluntarily celibate. As such, posting that is meant to sexually arouse should be avoided. Although appropriately CW’d talk/images of sex is allowed, this is not a space for posting pornography.

Regarding maithuna practices, all such posts must be CW’d.

4. I undertake to train myself to abstain from unwholesome speech

For the sake of organization, the details of this precept will be expounded by itemized list:

  • Lying & deception
    • Deliberately tying to mislead people with false statements and lying by omission are all forbidden. Whether or not the listeners actually believe the falsehood is not a factor.
    • Pretending to know something that you are not professionally qualified to comment on is not allowed. For example, if you wish to give someone medical advice but are not a doctor, you must qualify your statement by saying so.
  • Speech meant to hurt, pressure, oppress, or intimidate
    • Sarcasm, mockery, snark, ridicule, and contempt that are targeted at a specific individual are all forms of harsh speech to be avoided. As a principle, you should always assume good faith when interacting with people, and make an effort to be courteous. If, through conversation, someone displays a blatant disregard for reciprocating this social norm, that does not make it alright to stoop to their level.
    • Prejudiced and discriminatory speech, such as:
      • Racism and prejudice against cultures
      • Sexism
      • Transphobia
      • Any kind of anit-LGBTQIA+ speech
      • Classism
      • Nationalism
      • Discrimination against physical ability; medical or psychological conditions
    • Words meant to demean, dehumanize, or humiliate groups of people (slurs) are forbidden when used in a evidently hurtful manner. It is alright to engage in metacommentary on slurs, however this must be CW’d.
  • Speech meant to confuse
    • This includes speech meant to cast doubt on empirically verifiable material facts.
    • This also includes spreading conspiracy theories & speech rooted in conspiracism.
  • Proselytization
    • Attempts to convert one’s faith, religion, or political ideology on the basis of bribery, coercion, threats, or violence. This includes threats of what may or may not happen in the afterlife, or how you believe God(s) may personally feel about one’s conduct.
  • Meaningless/repetitive/automated speech
    • Posts that are not meant to convey a meaning (ie. Strings of random characters or words) are not allowed.
    • Posts that are not generated by a conscious being (ie. Bots) are not allowed to originate from this instance, although they may be retooted.
    • Posting the same thing over and over is discouraged, and may earn you censure if sufficiently repetitive. Retooting past posts that you think are relevant to a current discourse or situation is allowed and encouraged.
  • Gossip and rumours
    • Do not talk or speculate about the personal and private affairs of specific people when such matters do not directly involve you.
    • Do not tell stories about others’ conduct with the intention of harming their reputation. This includes “beware” type posts. If you believe someone has violated the rules of this instance, contact the admin and let them deal with it.
  • Illegal speech
    • The admin of this instance lives in Canada. As such, he is most familiar with Canadian law, and will use that lens for evaluating whether a particular post post has broken a law.
  • Speech that contravenes the rules of our hosting provider, masto.host. The following list of forbidden content is taken directly from their website:
    • Sexual content involving minors, including artistic depictions
    • Gore and extremely graphic violence, including artistic depictions
    • National Socialism
    • Nazism
    • Holocaust denial
    • Racism
    • Alt right, including under the disguise of freedom of speech
    • Gender-critical
    • Sex and gender discrimination
    • Transphobia
    • Misogyny
    • Pro-ana / Pro-mia

A thought on shitposting: Humour is encouraged on this instance! Please feel welcome to joke and have fun! However, humour that is passive-aggressively crafted to contravene these rules is not welcome. “It was just a joke, lighten up!” is not an acceptable defence for rule-breaking.

5. I undertake to train myself to abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness.

This means that all talk or images of personal intoxicant use must be CW’d, and that it is forbidden to encourage others to use intoxicants if they don’t ask you for your advice about it first. This includes using entheogens, use of “mind expanding” drugs, and/or taking intoxicating substances as a spiritual sacrament.

High/drunk posting is not allowed.

This rule does not apply to talking about mind-altering psychiatric medications prescribed by a physician (i.e. antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, ect…) in order to treat a physical or mental illness, although it may be considered courteous to CW such talk anyway.

What happens when a rule is broken?

Please use the Report button when someone is seen to be breaking a rule. Or DM an admin. If you are not an admin do not publicly challenge people.

As a general principle, when things escalate to an admin’s involvement, things that are brought up in public will be dealt with in public. This is for the sake of transparency and so that others may learn the group’s norms. The admin will reply to the post in question by pointing out which rule it contravenes, with a warning that similar posts in the future may result in a suspension or ban. At this point the person who violated the rule may choose to keep their post up or take it down.

Rule-breakers from other instances will be blocked/muted without notification, at the admin’s discretion.

Generally, users will not be disciplined upon the first instance of breaking a rule. There will be slack and leeway. Only people who have displayed a repeated and persistent pattern of misbehaviour will be suspended/banned. I understand that, most of the time, people break social rules without realizing they are doing it. Only particularly egregious and obviously deliberate violations of the rules will result in a summary ban.

What should I do if the admin is breaking a rule?

Please, let me know by pointing out which post is questionable, and which rule is relevant. I am not a perfected being, and I do not claim to have achieved enlightenment. My conduct is not above reproach.

As with other rule-breakers, my this may be in public or, if you feel more comfortable keeping it private, by DM. Conversation about my conduct is welcome so long as it is done in good faith. However, I reserve the right to defend and justify my own conduct. If, after conversation, you sill believe that I am in contravention of my own rules, you have the right to request an instance-wide public poll to determine the appropriateness of my behaviour.

Sleep is the Key

This is going to be a rambly one because I’m currently on major sleep debt. 3 days of minimal sleep; only 30 minutes last night. Pardon my dust.

I have something to admit: I have poor sleep hygiene. This has been a longstanding issue throughout my entire life.

The following is a list of things that contribute to poor sleep health

  • Staying up late
  • Sleeping in
  • Smoking pot
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking coffee in the afternoon
  • Overeating
  • Playing videogames before bed

And the following is a list of things I like to do:

  • Staying up late
  • Sleeping in
  • Smoking pot
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking coffee in the afternoon
  • Overeating
  • Playing videogames before bed

See any problems here?

In graduate school I took a Psychology of Health class. My professor, who I really liked, had a class dedicated to sleep health. One of the things he said that really stuck with me was this:

“You want to know what it’s like to be ninety years old? Stay up all night; do not get any sleep. Then go to work. That’s what it feels like to be ninety.”

Dr. (redacted), Psychology professor at (redacted) University

For the past couple of weeks I have been living that life. And I’m sick of it. I don’t want to be ninety years old anymore.

Lately I’ve been dealing with an ennui in my personal life due to a few low-level chronic conditions. Pain and sleeplessness. And guess what; they feed into each other and make each other worse. it sucks.

I’m done.

I’m stating this as a promise to myself. An act of self compassion: no more avoidable disturbances to me sleep.

I have made a sleep log and will be tracking my habits. I shall keep myself honest.

No more of the following:

  • Staying up late
  • Sleeping in
  • Smoking pot
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drinking coffee in the afternoon
  • Overeating
  • Playing videogames before bed

Aaaand we’re back!

Hey everybody. If you’ve visited over the past few weeks you’ll have noticed that either the site was down, or it was the default “hello world” page that comes preinstalled with WordPress. This is because I have been transferring the site across machines! I just finished migrating my server from my old (good) computer to a new-ish (crappy) computer I bought specifically to act as a “set it and forget it” server/media centre.

It took some doing and troubleshooting, however I think I’m back from the dead!

This frees up my good laptop, the Thinkpad T430s, to be used as a general purpose computer.

The new machine, a refurbished Thinkpad e11, will act as my FTP and HTTP server for now, as well as a games/media centre connected to my TV. We’ll see how this arrangement works out. It is a very under-powered machine so this might be asking a bit too much of it. But part of the fun of using Linux is being able to give old machines new life.

Computers are fun. Computers are frustrating. Funstrating.

My new server (file photo). Just pretend that Windows nonsense is replaced by Mint MATE.

On paws, claws, and sincerity

I am a furry! I have been one for my entire adult life, and I was one for a sizable chunk of my childhood. I have been a furry longer than I have been not a furry.

It all started around 13, when I got my first private computer. Keep in mind this was circa 2000, back when the internet was a very different place. I was kind of a socially awkward child, and although I had a fair share of friends, I lived very far from them in a suburban neighborhood that had really nothing going for it. I also struggled with reaching out and initiating contact. Consequently I used to spend a fair amount of time surfing the web. Again, I always struggled with approaching people and I guess it was easier online.

Me after surviving Y2K

One of my favorite things online was webcomics, and it wasn’t long until I discovered animal-people themed comics. Something about these deeply resonated with me! I supposed I always enjoyed funny-animal cartoons such as Bugs Bunny and this felt like an extension of that interest.

One web comic artist who tended to draw a lot of animal-people comics I really enjoyed was Dave Kelly (who ended up being a very tragic figure decades later, but I digress). A lot of his comics were very raunchy and salacious, especially Smut, which could only be described as semi-pornographic. Definitely things a young teenager shouldn’t be exposing themself to. The comic had an oekaki board attached to it, which is a kind of chan-like forum that allows people to draw directly in their web browser and post their art. Being attached to a semi-pornographic comic that heavily featured animal people, of course this oekaki had very heavy involvement from furries. Both Wacoon and Nanimoose posted there (not to be a name dropper of late-x early-millennial era popufurs). And from there I eventually was linked to VCL, Furaffinity, and other repositories. Not to mention Second Life, which is its own can of worms I’ll probably end up doing a post about later.

And yes, my early involvement with furry did grow out of a sexual tantalization. Pre-18s definitely do have sexual feelings, deal with it. But it was, and continues to be, far far more than that. Currently, the sexual aspect of furry actually remains a very small part of what it currently means to me. As Patricia Taxxon covered in her recent vlog (which inspired this post), there is a certain disarming earnestness about furry creatures. I think this especially is true for socially-awkward types such as myself, who yearn to be earnest but struggle with it in practice.

Furry allows you to distance from the self without estranging from it. The fursona is a filter that allows you to approach uncomfortable and unfamiliar aspects of psyche – things that are too overwhelming to be seen head-on – from an oblique angle. It allows you to craft and play a role; something that can serve a mediating function, rather than directly interfacing with confusing aspects of the self and social life. The fursona, and interaction of fursonae, serves as a layer of abstraction that imposes form, structure, and most importantly, safe distance. In this distance one is free to experiment, and hence, explore ways of being that may be more authentic, if not real. The connection to the self is more genuine, because you are creating a the self that you want, and approaching the areas of existence in a manner that is safe for you.

So, yeah, I guess you can say that furry is a neurosis. Whoops!

Hello I would like you to meet the neurotic emanation of my identity.

As I have matured I have gone through several mainline fursonas that all served me in different ways:

  • Sanny the golden retriever – Basic (cringe) “me, except fuzzy femboy UwU” fursona
  • Vlad the bat – Super sarcastic & ironic (cringe) “me, except The Worst” fursona
  • Student the squirrel – Bizarre “me, except an old professor” fursona. I was in grad school at the time (cringe).

I’ve also had some feminine alts to explore that aspect of myself as well:

  • Jocasta Panda – Hedonistic and bacchus-like figure.
  • Ruey Shark – Just a funny, dumb, jokey, playful girl! She’s great!

My current guy is Petrichor Squirrel, and he is quite different than my previous furry emanations. Instead of representing who I am or some mindset I would like to explore, he represents what I deliberately strive to be in a moral sense. He is an aspirational figure of self. He is the confluence of furry and the other great influence on my life, dharma, into a single being. He represents what I believe to be the fruits of existential development – a being of depth, wisdom, and kindness. In ways that, I myself, occasionally reach; except Petrichor is like that consistently. Through discipline and mental fortitude he has exhausted all greed, hatred, and ignorance from his being and operates in a default state of empathy, sincerity, and acceptance. All the time. The ultimate Mary-Sue!

I doubt I’ll ever be as attractive as a being as Petrichor. But he is less of an end goal and more of a pointer towards a unconventional and idiosyncratic morality that I’ve adopted for myself as the small-t truth. Yes, he is a neurosis – but he is a neurosis in the service of transcendence!

In a famous teaching that I’m probably misremembering the Buddha asked “if you needed to cross a river in order to then climb a mountain, would you not build a raft? After crossing the river, would you then strap the raft to your back in order to climb the mountain?” Of course, the Buddha was cautioning against clinging to the word of the dharma after it has served its purpose, however I do see this parable as holding meaning for who Petrichor is in relation to me. In many ways (which I have glossed over, or have not covered here) I have been damaged, and I use furry as a cope in order to deal with that damage. Furry has become an inextricable part of who and what I am, as an identity and sense of self. I view him as a leveraging of that depth toward a direction of growth and maturity.

Om petri petri maha petri maitri petri om petri svaha!

Photography

Photography has been a hobby of mine for my entire adult life. This started when I was around 18 when I decided to start using my father’s old film camera. This was when digital was overtaking film in the early 2000’s, and I suppose I was more interested in the mechanical and technical aspects of the machinery of film cameras rather than something I picked up out of raw creative drive.

My first camera: Minolta XG-7

So I bought some film from the supermarket and took 24 exposures, just kind of playing around. And wouldn’t you know it, I actually did create a couple of half decent photos! I can still recall some of them instantly. At any rate, I was inspired, and from an interest in the machinery came an interest in the art.

However, the vast majority of my photos were incompetently exposed and/or compositionally boring. When you’re paying about a dollar per exposure, the drive to get good is something that must be prioritized. So soon I developed a system where I would walk around with a clipboard with a stack of self-developed forms on it. For every photograph I would write down technical details such as the shutter speed, f-stop, lens focal length, focusing distance, et cetera. After a few dozen rolls of film, I actually was able to expose a decent shot! After this my interest in cameras exploded, and having little money or wisdom, I was soon into Toy Cameras.

Woah! Lomography! It’s good because it sucks!

Too bad my composition skills were still garbage! In reviewing my old film albums, it is so funny how all the images are competently exposed but are so boring to look at. Actually learning how to compose a decent shot would require a level of self-criticism that the expense and hassle of film did not facilitate. I kind of intuited this, and as a graduation gift I asked my father to buy me a camera. My first digital was a Pentax K-r.

Pentax: The Linux of cameras (derisive).

For a few years pretty much every image I produced was directly out of the camera. No editing at all. This was how I was used to operating, because when working with film, what you got from the supermarket was what you got! However, shooting on digital eventually allowed me to start editing my photographs digitally. Actually being able to crop after the fact teaches you a lot about how to compose while you’re actually taking the photo. Being able to produce developed photos that are slightly better than what I started with taught me the difference between middling composition and better composition, which was an intuition I would take with me into my next photo shoot.

I no longer shoot with my K-r, and most of my photography is still relatively boring, however the median level of quality and artistic vision is far better than what it was a decade ago. I definitely produce images that I are actually decent from an artistic point of view with a far greater frequency than back when I didn’t make a discipline out of it! This ability is the hard won reward of a lifetime of effort, experimentation, and self-criticism. In building my photo gallery for this site, I revisited my photographic history since about 2014. I included what I consider to be my highlights, which is probably about 1% of every image I’ve ever created (artistically).

The secret to taking good photos is just to take a lot of photos, keep the good ones, consider what it is about them that makes them good, and keep those qualities in mind for subsequent photo shoots. Nobody is born good at anything; in fact, a defining characteristic of humans is that we suck at pretty much everything in our natural state, but we’re very good at learning. This is a trade off: what we lose in innate skill we gain in the ability to profit from experience. A squirrel can only be a squirrel – a human can be whatever it sets its attention to (including a squirrel).

So go out: set the intention to focus your attention, put yourself in the way of experience, and profit by it!

With kindness,
-Petrichor

Practicing stealth dharma

Sitting on a park bench, deliberately fostering consummate feelings of goodwill and compassion for the man sitting across from me. Putting all my effort into this. My eyes moisten and my breath quivers. The emotions are almost overwhelming. I do not know his name. He does not know that, for a brief moment, I dedicated my whole existence to his happiness.