The Comfort Trap

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Well, it’s been almost half a year since I last updated this collection of my writings, last we spoke I’d recently thought I was getting drugged and robbed in the desert, and I had made a fool out of myself on that last leg of climbing a mountain. But overall, I lived in terror, trying but failing miserably from escaping my destiny of having to go back to Mexico.

Fortunately for me though, one of the several hundred job applications I’d sent out in the last few months actually bore fruit and I got an online interview. Unfortunately for me though, at the time I was in one of the hippiest hostels I’d ever been at, where it wasn’t uncommon to see the guests making opium tea and smoking pot whilst sometimes screaming about their drug use to anyone in earshot.

Needless to say, this wasn’t the ideal place to have an interview at; but I managed to find a corner of a room where I more or less pretended everything was in order, and it all went according to plan.

Fast forward a couple months, where I had to go back to Mexico for the UK visa and I’m finally back in London working as a financial journalist. It took over a year of struggling, applying to dozens of jobs per day (with the final tally being upwards of 800!) but it worked out, despite having essentially given up at one point. To say I’m ecstatic does not begin to cover it, not only did I beat the odds but managed to come out on top as well.

There was certainly a sizeable portion of luck involved but this would’ve been close to impossible without putting considerable amount of effort on my end as well. I guess this the key to life: to take enough punches and keep fighting until you get a lucky break.

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People you meet on the Road V: The Pelican King

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Over the winter of 2015, after having spent a wonderful and eventful Summer in Turkey, I decided to return to a small town called “Fethiye” for Christmas Holidays. I had little else to do, and I’d been hired by a friend to edit a book of his. The small port town was thus the perfect getaway now that the prices had fallen and the tourists had left for warmer places.

Truth be told, most of the articles I published in 2016 came from this month of work. The sudden and noticeable drop in activity and frequency of published articles midyear happened once I ran out of them, and actually had to get my ass into gear. Although I quite enjoy the art and craft of writing, I often just as much enjoy pretending I’m going to write and watching Youtube videos instead.

Be that as it may, I have very fond memories of this month as a quasi-hermit and author. Despite the terrible weather, the fabulous scenery was still there, and there wasn’t a foreigner in sight. Hence the few remaining shops, restaurants and hostels open were extremely generous to any lost soul that happened to end up over there. Among them there was a cafe by the boardwalk called “Pelikan Cafe,” and contrary to expectations, its name delivered!

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Hostel Fondle – or why all miseries shall soon pass

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I’m writing this article on my phone from my hostel bed late at night, because this is how I deal with stuff – I write. I’m currently in Split, Croatia. Wishing that the infernal creaking of the bed springs next to me would stop.

In the bed adjacent to me there’s a pair of irrefutably drunk tourists having sex. Paying no mind to any passing soul that comes by. A part of me feels angry, disgruntled that they don’t have the decency to go to a romantic toilet stall, just like any other proper fellow might have done (Truth be told, I have never understood bathroom pulls either, smelly and disgusting is not on my sexual bucket list). But if I am quite frank, what I think most people would not admit to, but I will, is that I cannot help but feel jealousy just as well.

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The Unconscious Horror – Learning to follow your passions and be free

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Estimated Time: 4 Minutes

As a homo sapiens, we’re part of various interlocking systems that are barely understandable to our limited minds. Even if we fail to see it, we’re a replaceable cog in a vast unconscious, unfathomably complex machine. A select few may be lucky enough to hear and acknowledge the constant low whirring of the engine, but none of them really know its true purpose or end goal.

Our biology has primed us to be likely to do and make us believe in certain things – to follow our evolutionary imperative. We’re a machine whose purpose seems to be to make copies of itself to be passed on to the next generation. In the meantime, we’ve allied with other such machines to take over the planet, and we have decided that the best way to do so is by sharing certain behavioural patterns that are designed for stability and social welfare.

The interesting thing is that much like evolution, society is not particularly concerned with the wellbeing of its individual components – it’s an unconscious mechanism that seeks to perpetuate itself at all possible costs. It doesn’t matter whether you’re happy or sad, as long as the system evolves and manages to survive and perpetuate itself to the next generation. It’s not to say that society won’t congratulate you for following the rules, it’s just that looking at it objectively the rewards hardly seem to be worth the cost. To quote Napoleon “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”

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The Traveller’s Curse

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Much has been written in the last few years on the benefits of travel, and how it positively influences the mind by broadening horizons. You get to see a wider pallet of the picture that is life. Having said this, there are few who even mention that there could even be a bad side to travel and meeting people abroad. There’s even less who wouldn’t be surprised to hear such an idea. Nevertheless, there is a very real danger.

The main problem is that most other people on Earth do not travel. As such, whenever you leave a place, you also leave people behind. These people could’ve meant the world to you, and so to leave that place behind feels like there’s unfinished business to attend to. These unfinished stories, in aggregate, do take their toll. You might even at times look at a map, and think of all the friends, love affairs, moments and connections that you left behind. You’ve tried to maintain contact online, but it is an ill substitute for seeing them face to face.

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The Cynic’s Guide to Life II – Adolescence & Highschool

The playground you used to go to during classes now seems like distant memory. Nowadays, you have developed paranoia in any and all social situations. Everyone seems oddly interested in anything you do or think. Furthermore, you try not to stand out from the crowd because of your crippling fear of being a social outcast.

All of a sudden you’re also interested in the opposite gender, and you’d like to do something to woo them. The portion of you that isn’t attracted to the contrary sex may think this state of being is wrong, and it may take a whole lifetime to come to terms with the fact that it isn’t. At any rate, there’s a slight problem with your sudden obsession to find a mate as your whole biology seems to be conspiring against you.

During this time you will look the absolute worst you most likely ever will, except when you hit old age. At this stage, your teeth will misalign, your voice will change erratically, and your face will be covered with acne and, to top it all off, you will be painfully aware of each scar, mark and zit on your body. That said, this self awareness needn’t be a bad thing.

This period might lead you to finally create an identity for yourself, instead of adopting the values of your authority figures. However, a good chunk of you will fall into new pitfalls. Instead of adopting the ideas of your caretakers, most of you will turn to your peers to consolidate your identity. This is by far the absolute worst you can do, as nobody has any idea of what they’re doing, so they will oftentimes think and act in clichés, it’s sorta like putting a mirror in front of a mirror.

People in marketing firms are well aware of this tendency; so they’ll sell you products, which you think will somehow provide you with a much needed identity. It’s safe to say that those who fall for this can say goodbye to any dreams of riches they had. With that single action, they’ve accidentally become permanent additions to our slave culture. From then on, not only will they work in the future to cover their loans and their needs, but they’ll yearn for the next status symbol – be it a car or some fancy gizmo which lights up and beeps. They can also say goodbye to any hopes of forming a concise identity, because they’ll be so tied to these products that they won’t really have much to offer in terms of personality. Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Adidas – most of you will use these as an identity throughout your lives.

In any case, I’m getting ahead of myself. As has been hinted at before, you will probably develop the vices at this time which will carry long into adulthood. More than likely, this happened because you didn’t want to be ostracized. So, you’ll start smoking, drinking or using drugs not because you actually enjoy them at first, but because your peers supposedly do. Now here’s the kicker, most of them are in the exact same situation as you.

funny-alcohol-pictures-kfgo2v4hHell, according to certain organizations, one of the telltale signs that you have become an addict is that you don’t take alcohol in social settings, but you use it by yourself. In other words, some organizations may start branding you as an addict if you start enjoying these things without some form of social pressure, and not for its own joy. At one point or another, this sociability will lead you to find somebody you deem attractive and compatible enough to be with you. This in turn, provokes feelings which affect the brain in very much the same way as conventional narcotics. Obviously, these chemical imbalances make you do things which might usually be out of character.

If you’re a male, the chances of you dying, because of bravado, stupidity or a mixture of both, at this point of your life increases significantly. This mostly happens so you can try to win a girl over. Regardless, according to you, these bouts of insanity have a purpose. Because, after all, you’re never going to meet someone that makes you feel the way you do now, right? Well, even if that’s actually true, the feeling you might call “love” only lasts about a year in most cases. Yet you will revolt at the idea, you’ll say something akin to “Well, this is something different. We REALLY love each other.” Sure you do, your love is special, just as everyone else’s is.

The reason as to why you’re inclined to think such trite isn’t really your fault. After all, you were brought up to think that you were special. You are somehow a relevant part in society, even though you have yet to accomplish anything of note and your name will probably fade into oblivion in less than a generation. As a kid you were told that you could be an astronaut, an actor, or anything your heart desired; yet those same people failed to mention that someone has to make the sandwiches.

A good culprit for this is school, which at this point is making you do the exact same thing you’ve been doing for the last couple of years. Nonetheless, there’s one crucial difference. In the past, while nobody really explained you the value of most of the lessons you learned, you could still find some application in the real world. Now, you’d be really hard pressed to come up with a single worthwhile application for the things you are learning. It’s not to say that the knowledge is useless, not by any means, but it’s the equivalent of handing a computer to someone in the Middle Ages and expecting them to make sense of it – while the tools themselves might be very useful, if no context is provided you can’t really use them with any degree of efficiency.

Besides that, you can now see that your school years are rapidly coming to an end. Soon, you’ll have to pick a college to attend to. Many of you also have no idea as to what you’d like to study. Furthermore, some studies even claim that around half of you will regret studying whatever you end up choosing either way. I suspect that this has much to do with the fact that very few people are given the chance to explore their passions, and they don’t give much thought to it when they are at this very important crossroad.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché,do not pick a career to study because you think it has a lot of money in it. Take doctors as an example, you oftentimes hear that there’s a lot of money to be made from that career choice and it’s also not all that uncommon to hear that many study medicine for precisely that reason. Yet a few recent studies, show that a profitable career isn’t exempt from a large portion of the practitioners to regret studying it.

Another portion of you will also be somewhat forced to study a career because it’s “tradition”, you’ll feel compelled to follow with the long line of workers in your family. However, I advise you to take a stand in this matter; you’ve stood up for far stupider reasons, so at least do it once for something that’s worthwhile. In any case, you will pick a career and with it a university.

Nonetheless, when you start seeing the entry requirements it becomes sort of like a game of bingo: “I have that! I fulfill that requirement as well! DAMN! I don’t fulfill that one, oh well, on to the next university” Eventually, if you’re lucky enough, you find a university which you like and which will take you. At this point, you’re on the other side of the fence as you have a clear plan for the future. Even so, there are certain formalities which must be overcome. Firstly, we have the exams and the like. This will, more than likely, be the last time in your life where some of this knowledge is even remotely useful in your day to day existence. So you hit the books one last time with the hopes that it will all be worth it in the end.

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“WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING?”

After all that has been survived, two events start popping up in everyone’s lips – graduation and prom. It’s at this point where you start wondering whether you’re in some bad “coming of age” comedic film because most people start following the script to the letter. Furthermore, there’s a scent of finality in the air.

Friends and such start saying their teary goodbyes and they vow to remain in contact for years to come. Rest assured, you won’t willingly exert much effort to come in contact with most of them in the following years, or ever. If you don’t move elsewhere though, you might keep bumping into people and both of you will lie to each other by saying you should organize a get together, but both parties keep it intentionally vague because they really have little interest in seeing one another. In any case, graduation and prom are for many a crowning achievement in their lives. Some older people will even say that their years in high school were the best of their days. I shudder to think that so many actually believe that time was the best life has to offer. So, while many clock out and stop being relevant in any way, for a lot of people the end of school represents the start of a new adventure. At this stage one can finally be considered an adult, huzzah!

The Cynic’s Guide to Life – Birth, Childhood and Early Schooling

Since you’re reading this I’m sadly assuming that the message held within these pages has come way past its useful time. Nonetheless, I think it bears repeating all the same. Life so far has been a whirlwind of illogical events, so it’s wise to recapitulate what you’ve gone through to reach this point.

The long and short of it is that the very first two cells, which created you, were brought into contact in a moment of extreme bliss for at least one of the parties involved. Thereafter, everything went south. The vast majority of you sneaked in with that blissful experience, and you lodged yourselves in your new home for the next nine months a little time thereafter. At that time, your soon-to-be parents were blissfully unaware of your uninvited presence. However, you soon made your existence known.

In the months that followed, after a realization that life would never be the same, you became your mum’s pride and joy, and the bump you called your home was petted by random strangers, as if it were some kind of a Buddhist good luck charm. In any case, you were born in a particularly uneventful fashion and, as a taste for things to come; you were slapped as a means of welcome.

At some point, you’ll be sent home with your new family. Everything will seem novel to you, because it is. Everything holds something fascinating for you, and can keep you interested in it for hours as you learn about existence. Life is grand. However, someone has determined, long before you were born, that such pursuits must be done in a rigid environment. So, you’ll eventually be carted off to an institution called “school”. This is truly were the fun begins.

On the first few days, some will cry and some will be immersed in their new environment. There are other creatures like you! Some are bucktoothed though, and others have rather goofy ways of speaking. Nevertheless, you share more with them than the giants that herd you around to do activities. Take note, for these shall be your friends for many years to come. You’ll sing, play, and won’t actually do much learning. I mean, screw it! You’re only at the stage in your development where you can absorb the most information in the least amount of time. Under no circumstances should anyone be taught anything useful like critical thought, logic, or actually generate an interest for the intricacies of the world that surround them.

No, you’ll use the massive intellectual capabilities you now have to learn nursery rhymes, fables and stories which will have absolutely no basis in reality, and which some of the dimmer ones among you will confuse with the real world well into adulthood. The key at this stage is to create an environment which generates sociability. You’ll be given certain freedoms to give you the illusion of choice, but none of it actually matters. After a few hours have elapsed, you’ll be sent back to your parents from which you’ve come from. Then you’ll be sent back to school the next day, and so on and so on and so on.

Needless to say, this will generate a routine and just as you’re starting to think that you’ve got this life thing pegged down, you’re sent to a different location. They’ll tell you that you’ve been elevated to the next year. Here you don’t have quite as much freedom though. You’re made to sit in rows of desks for hours at a time. Meanwhile, a mad old hag keeps yapping on about god knows what. The boredom here is generally crippling, but you try to stave it off by doodling on your notebook – it doesn’t help. However, there’s a glimmer of hope. At one point, there’s this magical ringing sound which lets you be outside. During that time, your experiences bare an uncanny resemblance to your time last year.

60% of your school existence in one picture
60% of your school existence in one picture

It’s different though, as it doesn’t really hold a few of your friends. Furthermore, you’ve been grouped in with older pupils. These might not be the friendliest of sorts, and they might pick on some of your classmates because they show some sign of weakness. Be warned though, should one of these unfortunate fellows be one of you, you must act quickly or you will be taken advantage of for a long, long time to come. The character traits you acquire during this time will, more than likely, remain with you for the rest of your life. You might build character through adversity though, but by the time you manage to learn not to care about public opinion, and you’ve actually learned how to be happy, this stage will have long since passed.

As you pass the time in a comatose state during classes, the hag keeps yapping day in and day out. At some point you actually do pay attention to her; she’ll talk about people and places you’ve never heard of. She’ll also talk about something called “maths” and similar obscure things. To you, in your day to day life, it all seems irrelevant. Yet you are forced to regurgitate these facts on command, not because of a strange compulsion of your own, but because if you fail to memorize them you get a “failing grade”, whatever that is. You wouldn’t really care about these vague references of performance though, were it not because your parents think it’s important. To them, it seems that these chicken scratches are of great importance. Oftentimes, when you bring positive marks, they’ll make vague references to something called a “job”, “university” and your “future”.

So, because of your emotional attachment to your parents, you’ll feel the need to get good marks. You thus learn these obscure references of which you have absolutely no idea of their true significance. This goes on for a while, and you’ll get promoted to the next level, and the next level. Eventually it all seems a blur, you can’t really say anything specifically which happened at one point or another because they’re all so alike.

In any case, during that time you will, more than likely, never be taught the purpose of what you learn. At one point, or another, you grow curious though, and you decide to question the people who harangue you with useless facts all day. “What’s the purpose of that, miss?” you’ll belt out one day in an otherwise uneventful class. The teacher’s monologue will then come to a screeching halt, you’ve broken their preset speech – not a very wise action. She, will consider you for a second, and more than likely will answer something to the tone of “you’ll need it for college” (or some point in the distant future). Another possible answer you might get is “you’ll need to learn it to pass the test.” The purpose of what you’re taught is never really addressed.

Besides that, because of recent developments in the political and work arena, you’ll be forced to work in groups. This is done to develop teamwork among your classmates, or so you’re told. In reality, you’ll learn one of two things: either that if you’re too incompetent to do your own work there’ll always be some poor idiot who can do the work for you, or you’ll develop a deep hatred for humanity and all it stands for. I leave it up to the reader to guess in what philosophical track I developed into.

At home, if your parents are still with each other, there’ll be constant bickering – pointless, petty bickering. You’ll think to yourself as a child, that somehow it’ll make sense as an adult. Trust me, it really doesn’t. Best case scenario, your parents are one of the few people who married and can actually tolerate each other. There’s typically around a twenty-five percent divorce ratio in many western societies. So, at the very least, you’ll see the fights at least once or twice during your childhood.

Whatever though, at least there are some things which keep you happy, right? Like Christmas, Easter and similar festivities which bring constant cheer to the whole family. You have no idea how wrong you are. Firstly, let’s get it out of the way: Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Same goes for any fantastic being your parents tried to convince you about. The truth is that your parents bullshit you in one way or another for most of your early childhood. Take note of this, adults are generally not trustworthy, if you find a trustworthy one, make him your lifelong friend. Secondly, behind that entire fantastical facade you see as a kid in the holidays, there are a lot of people having an awful time. This happens to such an extent that there’s a myth, which most people believe, that the rate of suicide skyrockets around this time. The truth of the matter is that most suicides occur during spring or summer. It doesn’t happen around Christmas as most people think. Nevertheless, so many people are going through a shitty time that they assume this, if any, must be the best time of the year to kill themselves.

Regardless of how happy or miserable this experience actually was, most of you will view it as a carefree time – a time where you didn’t have to worry about anything because you were taken care of. Really, the only thing that changes in your life are the preoccupations you have, the worries you feel all seem very relevant at the timeOnce you hit the next big stage in life, the board changes but the rules remain the same. At this point you’ve reached puberty. Congratulations! If you enjoy being chemically imbalanced, in every sense of the phrase, this is the time for you!