Saturday, March 29, 2014

the loner with social skills

People think that I'm crazy
Just cause I wanna be alone
You can't depend on friends to help you in a squeeze
We all deal with shit on our own

‒ The Roots, "Clock With No Hands"

I am a loner.

In fact, for as long as I can remember, I have always been a loner.  Without surprise, I cherished the few close friendships that I had.  Sharing with friends what I was really going through and sensing that they were receptive to that always made my feelings of loneliness disappear.  However, about two years ago, I started getting the impression that the receptivity was no longer there.  Or maybe it was just not enough.  While far from being an ideal friend by my own standards, I could not avoid feeling resentful towards some people when they were not reaching out to me in the way that I was expecting them to.  I felt like they had disappeared in some sense, and I was disappointed.  In spite of this, I made the effort to look at the matter objectively instead of doing anything dramatic.  I ended up interpreting this disappearance of sorts as the result of changes in my friends' priorities.  I accepted that they were possibly investing more in other areas of their life or perhaps quite simply in new friendships.  And I could not blame them for that.  It was not my place.  They were only doing what they felt was necessary for their well-being.  Something that I would wish for my own well-being in fact.

So I had the responsibility to let go of the resentment and to attend to the social and emotional void that I habitually expected close friends to fill.  This would be my own change in priorities.  I did not know exactly how to proceed, but I was certain that it would be necessary to open up more to others at the least.  And then one day, after an amusing moment shared with a stranger on the street, I realized that I had always enjoyed social interaction.  The more unusual and more unexpected it was, the better in general.  At best, an interaction was like an adventure during which I managed to forget my natural reserve and reveled in expressing myself as I desired, creatively and spontaneously.  This was sometimes the case being a foreigner in Paris.  Today, after seven years in the French capital, I still believe that each encounter with a Parisian or a tourist can be something special.  I always imagined the city as a place ripe for this kind of shared experiences, and I needed to get more than a bite.

To be able to satisfy my appetite, I knew that it was necessary to go beyond the loner persona that I had cultivated since childhood.  More precisely, I felt the need to develop social skills.  Getting straight to the point, I had to become capable of sparking the interaction rather than waiting for someone else to take that step.  Even though I was not particularly withdrawn as far as social situations were concerned, I had long remained in a sort of comfortable corner.  I needed to not only leave that corner more often, but also to remove the barriers that were preventing me from covering the whole floor.  And to make this process so irresistible that I would continue it in the face of the challenges that it posed, I had to act in a way that would be fun for myself and that would potentially be fun for the people that I would interact with.  Over time, operations were conceived and launched, one after the other.

As you can imagine, the market for social interactions is huge.  In addition to meeting a need for survival, we seek the company of others for the enjoyment that can result from such an endeavor.  While being with people can also be a source of pain and discomfort, the rewards derived from interacting with others cannot be underestimated.  Besides, many people want to feel useful to others.  Shouldn't we ourselves feel useful by helping these people?  If each of us was committed to developing his or her social skills in both enjoyable and meaningful ways, dare I say that the world would be a better place.

I would like to believe that someone with improved social skills is capable of reconciling with the people that he used to resent and whose actions or lack thereof motivated his efforts to adopt a more active social life.  Since he is more confident in social settings than before, he depends less on close friends to give him attention.  Besides, he could empathize better with these friends because he is more secure from a social and emotional standpoint.  Finally, given the abundance of opportunities for interaction wherever people are present, he is more capable of fending for his own if there are no familiar faces around.

It is likely that I will feel like a loner for a long time.  Even if I am surrounded by people more often.  Even if I had more loving relationships.  Yet many great moments in my life have occurred when I was alone.  I have even begun to embrace the loner in me.  But I do not want to be a loner who makes do with a quiet life in his small world.

I would rather be a loner with social skills.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

souvenirs amstellodamois

Last weekend, I met up with my friend Brian in Amsterdam.  He had thought that it would be interesting if we hung out there before he arrived in the Czech Republic the following week for work.  Having heard so much about the Dutch capital from just about everyone but never having gotten beyond Schiphol Airport, I jumped at this chance to satisfy my curiosity.

From the canals to the bridges to the architecture to the bikes to the Red Light District, visiting Amsterdam was an enchanting experience.  This was due in large part Lee, a young Dutch-Canadian woman and tour guide extraordinaire from the SANDEMANs New Europe company.  She gave a free tour of the city to the gathering of people that Brian and I had joined at the National Monument, taking us to several remarkable sites before we arrived at our destination, near the Anne Frank House.  It was a three-hour period very well spent.  In fact, we had enjoyed it so much that we decided without hesitating to accompany Lee on the Red Light District tour that she was leading that evening.  That was just as fun.  In all, we learned a lot and we saw a lot.  My own eyes were opened wider than usual, over and over again.

The icing on the cake was the weather.  It was gorgeous!  Just what one would hope for from spring.  Sunshine, a cool breeze, lively cafe terraces, and no rain.  Things got a little chilly in the evening though, but nothing dangerous.

The following are a few souvenirs from the trip.

At Korte Niezel + Oudezijds Voorburgwal with Sint-Nicolaasbasiliek in background

Near Grimburgwal + Oudezijds Voorburgwal

At Grimburgwal + Oudezijds Voorburgwal

At Torensluis + Singel

It's rouge all right, but where's the moulin?

Look! They serve top-notch coffee and offer free Wi-Fi!

You can try before you buy

At Herenstraat + Keizersgracht

At Rozengracht/Westermarkt + Prinsengracht

Stamppot mashed potatoes mixed with green cabbage, meatball, sausage, bacon

View from Café Kalkhoven

Friday, March 7, 2014

les grands esprits

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.

Les grands esprits discutent des idées. Les esprits moyens discutent des événements. Les petits esprits discutent des gens.

‒ Eleanor Roosevelt

May we all be grands esprits.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

what would hypnotica do?

I do not have the words to describe Eric von Sydow, a.k.a., Hypnotica.  Sage?  Poet?  Pick-up artist?  Perhaps none of the three, or even all of them.  As the man would like it himself, he would not put himself in a category.

I discovered Hypnotica about two years ago on the Internet.  I can no longer remember exactly how, though it's safe to say that I was browsing websites related to picking up women.  My search came to a halt when I stumbled on an interview of him titled "The Rise of The Renessaince Man - A Conversation With Hypnotica".

Hypnotica talked about the value of being a man that thrived in the presence of a woman's sexual energy.  In the process, he discussed his experience, described his philosophy, and gave some advice directed at men.  There was one particular part of the interview where he confirmed having walked through a shopping mall with a dildo taped to his head.  Imagine.  A dildo!  He admitted that some people had called that stupid.  Others had thought that he was just trying to build self-confidence.  But Hypnotica, the "inner game guru", could see beyond all that.  While self-confidence was part of the matter, what he really wanted was to desensitize himself to public ridicule.  Most importantly though, he wanted to be, in his own words, an "iconoclast thinker".

Although I am largely unfamiliar with the term, I would say that an iconoclast thinker is someone who not only sees the world differently but who also shapes his mind as he wants.  He is not bound to ways of thinking that are popular in society.  Actually, he is free from the conditioning that most people have been subjected to since childhood.  Clearly, an iconoclast thinker creates his own path in life, which is decidedly different from the one followed by the majority of people.

It goes without saying that I was enlightened after reading the interview.  As I had already become interested in the control of consciousness and in the ways of using this control to suppress fear, I could instantly relate to what Hypnotica was saying.  So I concurred when he stated that the way to reduce fear (if not eliminate it) was to embrace it in the circumstances where it was experienced; acting otherwise would do nothing but perpetuate it.  Hypnotica's approach to this kind of problem was extreme though.  And it was loud.  This guy wanted to hammer home the point.  Good thing that he did, because otherwise I may not have taken notice.  Operation Safe Sex was even inspired in part from his dildo experience (or rather from him sharing it).  Whenever I start feeling fearful moments before launching the operation, I try to focus by asking myself a simple question: "What would Hypnotica do?"  The answer comes straight away as a no-brainer: "He would forge ahead."  So ahead I have (almost) always forged, and ahead I plan to keep forging.

Recently, I recalled the interview.  I searched high and low for it on the Internet, to no avail.  I started regretting not having saved a copy for myself*.  Luckily, I was able to pick myself up after discovering that Hypnotica had published a book called "Metawhore: My Cock Don't Talk Politics".  It seemed to be the perfect consolation prize, and I wasted little time grabbing it off

It's a poignant, sensational book about Hypnotica's life experience thus far, presented in a no-holds-barred style.  "Metawhore is a journey through nonconformity, spiritual growth, and sexual expression, revealing the primal inner man and exploring the vast terrain of the female psyche.  It's a middle finger to social conditioning and a thumbs-up to individuality", says the first paragraph on the back cover.  Just enough to get me hooked.  I gobbed up everything like an impoverished kid in front of a buffet of cakes.  Quite simply, the book is badass.  I noted that the author used the phrase "it's just one of my temporary wacky social experiments" to reassure his worried parents before adopting a homeless lifestyle and that he wrote "I think for myself as a free spirit".  How about that.  Social experiments and free spiritedness were not just in my head after all.

For Hypnotica though, yet another virtual mentor, they were a way of life.

* This is not exactly true. I found just yesterday a part that I had saved of the interview in December 2011. And it is the part that matters.