Hello, O-Deck. My name is Arpad. You know how this works, I’m here to answer your questions- the Arpad way.
TOPIC 1. POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
“Positive” psychology is a branch of psychology focused on making good better instead of making bad good. PP posits addressing mental illness is not the sole purpose of the study of the mind. Study happiness and you may figure out what it is and how to be it.
Defining happiness becomes a conflict of life assessment vs. experienced happiness. The first is looking back and saying, yes. The second is the state of being of yes. “True” happiness is the latter. You have to actively do what makes you happy to be happy because positive emotion habituates. Pleasure flatlines. From an experiential perspective, there are different degrees of unhappiness, but happy is happy and once you’re satisfied, that’s it. The life assessment perspective would have you believe that the more you have, the happier you will be- but there isn’t an emotional “happier.” There’s only happy. So, having fun is good for you yes but chasing the dragon from one pleasurable event to the next to create future happy memories to look back upon can be a trap that cheats you out of the experience of happiness.
Experienced happiness is a state of being instead of perspective. Timelessness. Martin Seligman, papa of positive psychology, calls it “flow.” The leash of time no longer restrains you. The hours melt away into being. That is what happiness is, not the things that bring you pleasure but the state of being those things put you in. You can feel pleasure and flow is the absence of feeling, the connection between you and what you’re doing making everything else disappear. Lin Carter would call it “enchantment,” but that is more topic 2 than 1.
Erik Erikson was a psychologist whose work also focused on conflict. His theory on the stages of human development culminate into a crisis of integrity vs. despair. A person’s greatest challenge is to gain autonomy in a world designed to make them disappear. Integrity vs. despair is kind of the conflict at the heart of life assessment: one asks oneself, did I get that right? Did all that matter? If experienced happiness is the state of doing what you love, the secret to achieving meaningful happiness (wellbeing) is eschewing the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake and finding application for what puts you in the zone. To do what is the most you so that its impact benefits the world around you.
TOPIC 2. FLOW IN LIT/ARMCHAIR MYSTICISM
Timelessness. Easy to say happiness is it, not easy to find it. It is a subject oft mused upon in literature. I am particularly fond of Field, an essay by John Berger from his book About Looking. Field is about opening yourself to a state of receptiveness, the joy of fully being in the moment. Berger’s field seems static at first, but when you stop to look at it, your eye will find something to focus on, some life stirring somewhere, and then jump from one new discovery to the next.
By this time you are within the experience. Yet saying this implies narrative time and the essence of the experience is that it takes place outside such time. The experience does not enter into the narrative of your life- that narrative which, at one level or another of your consciousness, you are continually retelling and developing to yourself. On the contrary, this narrative is interrupted. The visible extension of the field in space displaces awareness of your own lived time. By what precise mechanism does it do this?
AH Maslow (the hierarchy of needs guy, though I loathe that particular theory) studied happiness, and he, too, found it to be tied to those bubbly overwhelming moments of glee that constitute Selgiman’s flow and Berger’s moments outside the narrative. Maslow points out you can’t force yourself into flow but discussing occurrences of it frequently causes it to happen. It was folks like Zolar and Fakir Musafar and Robert Anton Wilson and Kate Tempest who gave me the confidence to put these random threads together into a single strand on the grounds of it feeling right. Reading is experienced happiness that creates an incredibly powerful bond between you and ideas. In my eyes, literature is the other half of the key to understanding happiness. You need science and study, but also you need fantasy to be able to step aside and see the truth in new ways.
“Armchair mysticism” as I put it is the idea of seeking that truth. What’s true? It’s the difference between looking and seeing. The idea that the senses have a corresponding allegorical spiritual function that is beyond us. We see with our eyes but seeing in a mystical sense means seeing things beyond the scope of our normal vision. Our nervous system feels the physical world around us but I put positive psychology and literature together because it feels right. Whoever hath ears to hear, let them hear. All is one, there’s a phrase you’ll hear elsewhere when pursing the occult, and the belief that there are mirrored senses and all that other as above, so below stuff are reflections of a core concept that there is another half of things and we are missing it. We are the greatest proof of this- for every thing that exists, there is a corresponding idea that doesn’t exist (in the thing sense), but people can take an idea that doesn’t exist and actually fashion a corresponding thing out of it. People are capable of bridging the infinite gap between the real and the unreal. If becoming completely engaged with something outside yourself is what flow is, then mysticism’s spiritual parallel to it makes “you” the idea, the “something outside yourself” the thing, and flow the, uh, you.
TOPIC 3. I WAS A ZINESTER
Before Zolar it was Love and Rockets. From 1998 to 2012, I self-published a fanzine called Jinxremoving. 4 years in Pittsburgh and 10 in Chicago. So, if you are interested in advice regarding self publishing via copy shop instead of printing service, I have been there. The Midwest DIY scene crossing the millennium was a great thing to be a part of. Inspired in part by the East Coast art and music cooperative Ft. Thunder, a lot of communally run music venues also had connections to the zine world in the form of small press libraries or mail-order distribution networks- to get people’s art out in the world in addition to showcasing outsider music. 1995-2005 saw the first black and white comics of a bunch of nobodies like Ed Brubaker and Jeff Lemire and Bryan Lee O’Malley and 2005-2015 has seen them shape the state of American popular culture. I read a ton of indie press comics from the 90s and 2000s, if you are curious about the wide variety of comics outside Diamond and the regular discussion on io9 and the O-Deck, I would happy to try and make some recommendations based on your interests.
TOPIC 4. WHATEVER
It is an Ask Me Anything so feel free to do just that. I will try to convince you to get a tattoo, I will try to convince you to go to community college, I blame the anomie for the state of the world today, I can talk your ear off about hot jazz artists or a million other things. Before I decided to get serious about generativity vs. stagnation I spent most of my free time reading weird books and listening to weird music. I have lots of opinions on stuff. Thanks for including me in the AMA series.