March 16, 2018•1,041 words
I recently took a trip with a friend, and noticed myself behaving extrinsically, rather than intrinsically, and felt dirty about it. That is, rather than drinking coffee when I felt like drinking coffee, my friend might awake earlier than me and say "Hey, I'm making coffee, want some?" To which I might reply, sure, why not!
I thought this was harmless, but carried on to other elements of life, you start living a life of suggestion.
"Hey, I'm taking a walk, want to join?" Sure, why not! When really, maybe I wanted to walk an hour from now.
That I was open to suggestion at first appears to be a trait of open-mindedness, but later manifested itself as: I don't feel that good. I drank coffee when I usually wouldn't have. I took walks when I usually wouldn't have. I ate this generously offered candy bar when I usually wouldn't have.
So the next day, I told my friend, I'm not open to suggestion today. He said, I'm making some coffee—want some? I said no, sorry, not open to suggestion today. I drank coffee about 45 minutes later when it felt right within me to do so. My friend said, hey, it's nice out, want to go on a hike? I said no, sorry, you go ahead. I'm not open to suggestion today. I took a hike about an hour later, when it felt right within me to do so. I applied this pattern throughout the entire day, and felt thoroughly better.
When I returned home, I felt myself unable to shed this mentality. I started becoming ultra sensitive to everything that was suggesting me to do something I didn't necessarily want to do. Everything in the artificial life is designed to influence you, and when you perform activities not because they feel right, but because there is either "nothing else to do", or because it's a certain time of day, you're living a life of suggestion.
The most flagrant belligerent?
The huge television in my living room. How else is one supposed to design a living room other than a square arrangement of sofas facing a huge flat screen TV? We certainly didn't know any better.
I found however that when I entered my home, tired and wanting of rest, and definitely without the thought of watching TV having crossed my mind—when I enter and sit on the couch, the huge TV is practically begging me to use it. The entire living room design is centered around the suggestion of watching TV. So, in many cases, you end up watching TV, or playing video games, not because it was inherently what you wanted to do, but because the design of your life is centered around oppressive suggestions that can be difficult to detect and resist.
We are constantly being suggested to—how we should feel, what we should be talking about, what activities we should do. When you open Twitter.com, there is a list of trending topics, which suggests that you too should be apprised of these events, and perhaps contribute to the conversation. You see your follower count, which suggests how you should feel, relative to others. Advertisements on TV are flagrantly suggestive, almost as to be entirely offensive. When I returned from my trip, I couldn't believe that flagrantly suggestive advertisements ("Cool, healthy, and fulfilled people drink Diet Coke.") are even societally acceptable. But what can we do.
In the country, on my trip, avoiding suggestion was extremely easy. It was a mostly natural environment. Back in the city life, everything about your environment is unconsciously designed to influence you. I avoided any thought or desire of watching TV or playing video games on my trip, but as soon as I returned home, my environment sucked me back in. Slowly at first, and now my grip is relinquishing entirely. Something needs to change.
I'm tempted to scrap my living room all together of any suggestion. If you want to watch TV, go on into that other room where the TV is. As for the living room, it should be a basecamp from where you launch your activities, based on internal impulses and not external influence. I would have done this in a heartbeat, but, obviously, "real life" has certain conditions. The in-between solution my wife and I agreed on was that we could cover the TV when it's not in use, perhaps either with a pull down curtain, or some sort of shutters. Why should a huge ass TV constantly insist on itself, even when you are not using it, or have no intention of using it?
I'm finding it harder and harder to resist suggestion in the artificial world. You can't just change yourself. There is no you. There is just the environment that makes you. It's why bad habits always come crawling back. It's not enough to just change yourself.
I'm still fighting hard to resist suggestion. I haven't checked any feed of any sort since my trip, including a Twitter feed, a news feed, or any other news-based feed. My rule is, you can tweet out if you want to, but, no feeding.
I also don't mind checking Twitter notifications if I have any, but again, the timeline is off limits. It's an endless feed of suggestion. "Don't know how you should feel right now? Here is a list of suggestions based on what other people are feeling." It's not a way to live.
My hope is to be intentional. To do something because it's inherently what I want to do. This isn't a blanket assault on consumption. It's an assault on unguided, unintentioned consumption. You can play video games, but only if you had it in your mind that you wanted to play video games prior to sitting down on the couch. You can watch TV, but only if you had it in your mind that you wanted to watch TV prior to seeing your TV. But when you are completely empty, and at the mercy of "what are my options?", you'll never quite feel at ease. You will always be at the mercy of suggestion, very far away from your internal state, which—make no mistake about it—has the ability to be at reasonable peace.