Now what?

These two-word titles seem to capture how little I feel I have to say at the moment. “Oh shit.” “Now What?” I’m hoping that something more profound will bop me on the head, but I’m not holding my breath.

I haven’t written anything in three weeks, which is approximately how long it’s taken me to get over the election. Now, rather than a surge of horror and nausea when I read the news, I get a slight sense of dissociation, vague anxiety, mild vertigo, and my mind quickly wanders to myriad possibilities none of which seems more likely than any other.

And here I should insert a note. What do they call those alerts that commentators, lecturers, film-makers, professors and so forth are now being asked to put forth before they get into the nitty-gritty of what they have to say? Those warnings that “this material may be disturbing.” If you are particularly sensitive to anti-Trump verbiage, then you may wish to skip the rest of this post. I’m trying to make this light. I received one or two comments following my last post, criticizing me for expressing strong “political” views in an addiction blog. And I respect the commenters for saying what they felt. I really do. But I won’t hide the fact that I really hate that guy. It’s not exactly political. I just can’t stand him.

rightmarchI’ll spare you all the usual listing of what’s wrong in the world, from Brexit, to the right-wing populist movements sweeping Europe, to Trump. Well I guess I didn’t spare you. But for me what it comes down to with Trump is pretty simple. He’s a liar and a cheat. Almost everything he says is a lie. He replaces it the following week or the following day — usually with another lie. And most of his campaign promises were mere strategic gambits to win votes. He’s not going to build a wall, or prosecute Hillary. Who ever imagined that he would? He’s even talking about taking a serious look at climate change and maybe endorsing the Paris Accord, which is of course good news. It’s just a shame that he got voted in on his promise to ignore the environment because climate change is a fantasy promoted by the Chinese.

I’m not quite depressed. I think I’m suffering from anhedonia or dysthymia or something… those are clinical terms for (let’s see if I can remember) not feeling particularly good but not particularly terrible either. I just looked up “dysthymia” — it’s actually defined as “persistent mild depression.” Well, that’s close.

wave-particleIf there’s anything useful I can say at the moment, it’s to suggest we look at the present glut of bad news as waves rather than particles. Sounds spiffy to use quantum terms. Waves seem like tendencies, currents, gusts…in a universe that is constantly in flux. Whereas particles…give the sense of matter, substance, stuff buddhalightthat collects in corners until there’s so much of it you really have to rent heavy machinery to get rid of it. So when the Buddha talked about impermanence as the main act, maybe he was thinking more in terms of waves than particles. Impermanence actually seems like good news at the moment.

I sometimes wonder what’s at the core of all these right-wing leanings. Let’s preserve what we’ve got. Let’s keep America American. Let’s maintain our way of life because it’s being threatened. Damn right your way of life is being threatened because….get ready…you’re going to die! What could be more threatening to anyone’s way of life?

But when I walk around in the crisp sunshine and notice how incredibly vivid and beautiful the leaves are, in their fall fashions, and when I watch one of my twins stuff missing homework into the other’s knapsack, both already mounted on their bikes, wpartbreathing steam, I think: this is just fine. This is a great moment. This wish to preserve things the way they’ve always been (as if that were a good thing)… What’s the point of that?

I once read a book by a Buddhist/cognitive scientist type scholar (Francisco Varela) who said something like this: Don’t even try to fill up your experience (viz consciousness) with yourself, with the sense of being a self, i.e., yourself. Because if you were successful, if your experience was full of yourself, then there wouldn’t be room for anything else. Nothing else coming in, or going out, no novelty, no change, no nothing. The illusion of being a distinct, essential self (yeah, you and the other 7 billion) is not only impossible to achieve but also a really bad idea. Experience is pretty amazing, so let’s not fuck it up by trying to make it stick to how we wanted it to be.

(Or as Matt so succinctly put it in a comment to the last post: “Why whine and worry about the way you want it to be, when it’s right there in front of you being what it is.”)

I guess, to follow my own advice, Trumpism is just a current of change in a world that’s already changing beyond our imagination. It won’t last either. Might as well watch it and be fascinated.


44 thoughts on “Now what?

  1. Elise November 28, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts this morning with us, Marc. Apart from resonating with much of what you’re feeling, I’m also putting in my 2 cents worth: Keep writing. Write about whatever you want to write about, political or not. I have no idea how people can say, “don’t be political” at a time like this (or any other time, for that matter, given it’s YOUR blog). I think a lot less worrying about saying the wrong things, offending anyone, or being “politically incorrect” and a lot more talking, arguing, doing something (not only on social media), writing, thinking, critiquing, and even public hand-wringing may be just what the doctor ordered…

  2. Matty H November 28, 2016 at 5:09 am #

    I don’t mind political posts.

    What’s that slogan they used in the 60s? Everything is political? The private is political?

    Don’t know if I agree with that or not. I was just reminded of it.

    • Marc November 28, 2016 at 5:42 am #

      The personal is political. Close enough. When the next dinner-table debate or the next vote comes around, you better agree with it!

      • Matty H. November 28, 2016 at 8:25 am #

        I’m not American, but I know what you mean. Experienced plenty of those. 🙂

  3. Mark November 28, 2016 at 5:31 am #


    When I think of what purpose a Trump might serve, I am often returned to this Sufi Tale – The Increasing of Necessity:

    The world is mind-bogglingly complex times the 7+ billion brains (and hearts) in it.



    • Marc November 28, 2016 at 6:11 am #

      Well I read this but I’m not sure I get it. Can getting a kidder in the Oval Office bring the Kidhr any closer? Increasing necessity….can trigger suffering and bloodshed…but I suppose that only lasts for awhile.

      • Mark November 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

        Trump could be like a tsunami or an earthquake, or an alien invader against whom the most of the world comes together in concentrated clarity and peace.

        • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

          That’s what I was thinking. You pull the pendulum past its usual limit in one direction and it tends to rebound with extra oomph. I just wish I was more optimistic at the moment.

  4. Rebecca November 28, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    The day after the election I reset my boundaries. No news is good news. I’m reading books, being creative, and spending more time outside and meditating. I can’t quiet the country but I can quiet my mind.

    • coffeeshoptea November 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

      A few people chatting like this just now. Maybe it’s the way forward or maybe it leads to massive by-stander effect. I’ve no idea, utterly clueless right now but swimming,music and learning languages and spending more time with people I love may be the way forward for me.

  5. Mike November 28, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    Marc, please stop listening to mainstream media reporting, whether in the states or where you are. They are agents/employees/ call it whatever you want, of the globalist movement, George Soros gang, dickless fucks; aka NWO. Try here for a different view; … Peace, Mike

    P.S. ~The Cinton’s and their crime network are going down. And, don’t you look at WikiLeaks info?????

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

      I know globalization has hurt people and needs serious revision. Anything that’s simply driven by immediate profit can’t be helpful. Unfortunately I’m seeing the epitome of that policy in the Trump camp. I guess we disagree on some fundamentals. Peace to you Mike…

  6. Denise November 28, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    Marc, I’m sure you’ll get plenty of comments here so let mine be one of them. I had to laugh at your opening lines, reminded of several years ago, at work, colleagues making idle chatter. One of them asked the women staff, “How much money would it take for you to sleep with Donald Trump?” I answered, “All the money in the world would not make me sleep with him.” (And, no, I’m not gay.) They were all shocked. “Why?”they asked. “Because I hate him,” I responded. And now, here we are today, twelve years later with him president. It’s unbelievable.

    But the truth of your post is well taken, i.e., this too shall pass. Yes, that’s a small comfort, especially when we think about how many folks throughout history have thought that, for example, in Nazi Germany and elsewhere. We just have to hope that this latest blip in history doesn’t increase the suffering for too many people.

    (You could always write on the connection between an increase in suffering caused by external circumstances and how it affects people’s need to escape into addictions!)

    • Marc November 28, 2016 at 9:56 am #

      I wouldn’t sleep with him either! Maybe we could extend the discussion into what degree of CNS suppression it would take for me to change my mind. Dissociatives maybe?

      Seriously, we seem to have similar feelings about the Donald, but I don’t want to emphasize the parallels with Nazi Germany at the moment. I do want to respect members of this community who feel differently about Trump (even though I don’t have to agree with them)….and the fact that the Alt-Right and neoNazis like Trump does not mean that he likes them. In fact I think he’s finding them rather irritating at the moment.

      So, yes, let’s focus on what a massive, global dose of disappointment does to our moods — and our temptations to use whatever means of escape we might find at hand. I rarely drink more than two or three drinks in any 24-hour period, but November 9th was an exception. Lucky for me alcohol isn’t my drug of choice. I hope others (I mean those who, like us, don’t like the guy) also got through their angst, fear, disappointment, and any other nasty feelings with little or no damage. And even if they didn’t, as per the larger message, nothing is permanent.

  7. Roger Albert November 28, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Dysthymia. Yeah, that’s it.

  8. fredt November 28, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    Marc: “He’s a liar and a cheat. ”
    I disagree. In order to lie, you must know the truth. Trump does not know the truth, so everything he says is more correctly described as bull shit. It may or may not be correct, but he does not care, as long as it sounds good to his fans.

    The US will soon be governed by a TV personality, and a fim flam artist. Oh well.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

      I agree that he doesn’t care. I don’t agree that he doesn’t know. Well, let me reconsider. In the NYT a few weeks ago, Timothy Egan divided Trump’s lies into three flavours: the vanity lie (I”m wonderful, the biggest most capable most powerful, etc); the denial of what I’ve said or done lie (I’ve always loved women, that was a joke); and the denial of the way things are lie (e.g., climate change is a hoax; Mexicans are rapists, Muslims are terrorists, etc). I think he “gets” the latter two types but doesn’t care. And for that I really hate him, because those kinds of lies destroy essential systems and beliefs (like the idea of democracy in America). Regarding vanity lies, I agree that he really doesn’t see them. His narcissism occludes. Still…

      • matt December 20, 2016 at 7:08 am #

        Narcissism doesn’t occlude…it precludes. And there’s a difference between ignorance and willful dismissal of the truth. One can be innocent, the other nefarious and evil. My favorite existential Camusism (which I believe I tortured this blog with in the past) “All the evil in the world comes of ignorance, and good intentions can do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding” As far as the US is concerned? Welcome to the land of the willfully stupid.

        Ouch! This soapbox hurts my feet! I think I’ll get a clue and step off….:)

  9. Nicolas Ruf November 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    True/false, right/wrong have no meaning or relevance to him. He really does not understand why the media want to hold him to something he said yesterday. Pure form of amorality.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

      True enough. But as in other domains, ignorance is no excuse.

  10. Nicolas Ruf November 28, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Are we happier with the white supremacists, anti-Semites, xenophobics, MCP’s etc hidden away festering in secret or is it better to let them out so we can have a look at them and let people decide?

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

      Again, good point, Nick. I also hope millions are saying “OH MY! Look at what we allowed to escape from its cage.” I just don’t know if that’s happening.

  11. coffeeshoptea November 28, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    I’d rather be watching it from Netherlands too, well at least for the next few months. If Wilders gets in then things are really going to be in a state of flux. The echoes of the 1930’s are certainly louder than at any time. As for people not wanting to discuss politics and addiction, I would plead with them to read some Bruce Alexander or Gabor Mate. Addiction is a by product of the nastiest politics and most horrible people, substance use is normal.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

      You are absolutely right about that, Coffeeshoptea. I’ve read Mate’s book twice: systemic racism and poverty breed addiction like cockroaches. And I’ve struggled part-way into Alexander’s tome. This would make a great theme for a future post. But for now, here are the links:

      Bruce Alexander:

      Gabor Mate:

  12. Erin November 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    I appreciate your acknowledging where your mind is at regarding the election. I also appreciate knowing that it’s affecting your mood, because I have found it harder to focus since the election. Grappling with it rather than ignoring it is likely the better response. And FWIW, I believe that the study and phenomenon of addiction – especially to illicit drugs – are eminently political. As we learn more about what Trump’s approach will be regarding the drug war, overdoses, federal funding, etc., I would be interested to hear your take on the implications for making progress.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

      Thanks, Erin. Yes there is some cathartic benefit…at least I think so. But sometimes I just have to turn off thinking about global politics. I reach for a newspaper (yes I still get hard copies) and then, like Dr. Strangelove, I grab my hand back before it’s completed it’s arc.

      See the comments just above and just below yours for related views…and note that the second of these is a joke. I think.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

      Hey, let’s give the man a chance.

  13. Joy November 28, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    Mark, I’ve followed you for years now and feel your pain as you realize what the Trump agenda means for so many. As someone who has seen some of his economic plans (low/no taxes) rolled out in our very red state of Kansas (the grand experiment), I can tell you that his economic plan will be a disaster for America. Our state’s mental health system has been deteriorating for decades now, but when our governor initiated massive tax breaks four years ago AND refused to expand medicaid, our state mental hospitals and our rural hospitals began to collapse, figuratively and literally. We may never be able to restore our health systems here and people are going to suffer. Kansans finally realized how bad policies were affecting their every day lives and moved decidedly to the center in this last election (at the state level at least). Maybe the rest of the country will figure it out in the next four years. I’m hoping.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

      Exactly. People are going to suffer. But if Kansans “realize” what they’ve done by approving such policies, well, then, yes, there’s some hope. See the comments above that also express hope…that once we’ve seen the full impact of the Trump phenomenon, we’ll wake up to the extent/reality of the dangers.

      I really hope so, but the Republicans have been incredibly successful in neutralizing the impact of really bad news.

  14. Lisa Martinovic November 29, 2016 at 12:12 am #

    I share your grief, Marc. But even as I oppose nearly everything Trump stands for ($3 trillion for infrastructure is long overdue), I don’t hate him. I’m with the Dalai Lama on this one. When asked if he was angry at the Chinese for taking over his country, he said “Why should I give them my mind as well?”

    When I’m feeling hatred my spirit is constricted and my vision is limited. I will be much more effective at doing everything I can to stop the Trump agenda if I’m working for what I want with an open heart rather than against what I hate.

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

      Excellent advice, Lisa. Also, that quote manages to make the DL sound Jewish…which brings a smile…which also helps a bit.

    • Karen November 30, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

      Though anger can focus the mind too.

  15. Tom B November 29, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    My personal program has become:
    –not drinking over this event
    –identifying the limited things I really do have the power to change
    –inspiring younger people that I’m around that they’ve got their own small realms they control, like the checkout line in the grocery my nephew is responsible for–in his little kingdom, you can get 86’ed for acting out
    –doubling down on kindness, presence and patience with others
    –fighting my attempts to de-humanize him or his supporters
    –strictly managing my news consumption
    –remembering how much fun we had resisting Reagan and telling younger people how much we came together to raise funds, foster new leaders, resist, organize, and speak out about our values, and, yes, cope together with our disasters

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:43 pm #

      Beautiful agenda, Tom. I will emulate. And by the way, we DID survive Reagan and things kept getting better….I mean a lot fewer CIA-inspired coups and a black guy in the white house…that’s better than surviving.

  16. David November 29, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    The right wing and the left wing BOTH belong to the same bird. My personal perspective is that the government, the addiction recovery industry, and the mental health system all operate on a business model that closely resembles the business model of the crack house. They all profit form getting people dependent on them. I have decided not to remain in the sick role anymore. I don’t buy into ideologies anymore because I can’t see clearly looking through the lens of any particular ideology. I refuse to let other people’s beliefs or behaviors affect me any more. I can’t FIX anyone else. I don’t get anything from trying to control anything outside myself except stress, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, etc. Wellness for me has become me having a feeling of peacefulness while laying in my hammock in the middle of the storm. I might get wet from the rain but I know that is what storms do unless you run and hide somewhere. Struggling just sucks but I can choose peace anytime and anywhere if I choose to choose it. Politics, religions, ideologies, etc. are all designed to alter peoples perspectives. Our perspectives become more real to us than reality. To buy into those ideologies only allows others to control you. I will pass on taking sides and close with this. Don’t be who they want you to be…be who YOU are…Keep Being Awesome!

    • Marc November 29, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

      I agree that it’s critically important to be able to identify your own truths and have a place to go where you can be with them and be centered. But I don’t agree that we can choose full disengagement. Struggling does suck, but sometimes it’s vastly important. And, well, do you know how few Americans actually voted in this election? I think they needed to buy into the lesser of evils, not stay at home.

      I actually can’t help but think of Mandela and MLK.

  17. Davd November 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm #

    I did not say I disengage completely I just don’t buy into the political ideologies of either side of the political arena or let it affect me personally. I voted alright you better believe it. I voted for the less of two evils as you put it the reason that is our only option though is because everyone is choosing one of the two sides they give us to line up with. We could most deffinatly use a leader like MLK but to get on the ballot he would first have to line up with one ideology or the other. I always come across wrong in a text but I am trying to make a point about how the public buys into the narratives they give us and we buy into it and then chose either one or the other. They both have a money trail and the ultimate winner is always the same in the end.

    • Marc November 30, 2016 at 4:13 am #

      David, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were one of THOSE people who sit back and don’t vote, etc. I was just following my own train of thought — about the importance of acting in some fashion.

      This issue has actually been a bit of a challenge for me — not knowing how much I should involve myself, at least emotionally and intellectually — not that there’s much I can do as a Canadian residing in Europe. I do tend to buy into the Democrat ideology instead of recognizing it as a means of damage control. Friends have lectured me about my naivete, about the evils of “neoliberalism” and so forth….they sort of adjust me politically the way a chiropractor might in terms of musculoskeletal issues.

      This balance between acceptance and reflection (on one hand) vs. the impulse to dig in and choose sides (on the other)…is something many of us seem to be struggling with.

      Thanks for contributing your perspective to this difficult…adjustment.

  18. Mark November 30, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Here’s an interesting take on a kind of addiction: Under-Earning Addiction!
    I bet we all know someone(s) suffering from it …

  19. Rory November 30, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Sorry, but too many people seem to think that other people care about their political opinions. Actors, other “celebrities”, “independent journalists”, musicians, Facebook friends, and now you.
    I do not care about your political opinions. I assumed your last post was an anomaly, but now you’ve doubled down.
    I choose not to subject myself to it.
    You have some interesting things to say, but you made the price of admission to high. I stopped reading after a few paragraphs and won’t be back.

    • Marc November 30, 2016 at 11:26 am #

      I guess all opinions are just opinions — take it or leave it sort of thing — and bloggers tend to share their opinions on their blogs.

  20. Karen November 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    Well we are having our own issues with our government here in New Zealand. People who as children were victims of abuse while in state care in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, are now starting to come forward, and the current Minister is frantically trying to divert and smooth over the rising tide of evidence. One of the things that is coming out, is that a considerable proportion of these people develop drug addictions as they grow up. Back in those days, putting children in institutions used to be seen as a solution to family problems; the current jump in drug use could be a consequence of those policies.‘would-get-answers-to-all-the-questions’

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