Referring back to this post on the effects porn had on my sexuality and particularly how I perceived “sex” and the narrowing of what was pleasurable for me, I wanted to write another post about stimulus and conditioning. Especially since people seem to believe that this is some isolated phenomenon, and it’s just not.
One of the things I noted about pornography was that it actually limited the pleasure I could find in sex or masturbation when it wasn’t “aided” by porn, and that it warped my definition of sex so that it consisted almost entirely of penetration, performed pretty mechanically by two or more partners—it could have been anyone, not just me; all that mattered was that penetration happened. It was really about as sexy as a hammer striking a block repeatedly: if you have a healthy sexuality, not at all.
Carnism warped my perception of what “filling” food was. Some months after going vegan, I remember looking at the cover of The Complete Vegan Cookbook and thinking that even eating all that couldn’t fill me up—and it was a depiction of probably more than two thousand calories and four pounds of roasted vegetables! Corn, potatoes, peppers, garlic—that was just the beginning; I can’t even remember all the varieties of food pictured.
Needless to say, I was being pretty ridiculous; it was purely a problem of distorted perception. After several years of being vegan—almost entirely without omnisubs or “meaty” products like tempeh and tofu—the same picture would seem to me an inordinate amount of food, a veritable feast.
Other carnists do this too; one of my friends, who works at Subway, is vegan too and regularly has to deal with comments from customers and coworkers about how the Veggie Delite (sans cheese, nonvegan condiments and patty, natch) just wouldn’t fill them up. The hilarious thing is the maximum amount of meat you’ll get for a six inch is four ounces; mostly you get two to three ounces—the bread is literally the most filling part of the entire sandwich. On top of that, people who say that it isn’t filling have usually never actually tried it—or they only got one or two vegetables at best.
Carnism makes you feel that the only real sustenance is contained in animal products; it warps your perception.
But one of the most interesting experiences for me, taste-wise, was fruitarianism—i.e. 2,000 calories a day specifically from fresh semitropical or tropical fruit, a large salad usually consisting of two heads of lettuce, and every other day or so some avocado, coconut or nuts. I’ve heard rather pretentious vegans remark that you have to like, go to culinary school to have “good enough” tastebuds. (I had no idea that you could be a classist Marxist; thanks, Vincent!) Now, one of the most interesting thing was just how my tastebuds changed.
Without letting myself go hungry, the flavors of fresh food became exponentially more vibrant when they’d already been delicious to begin with; I could taste the sweetness and saltiness of romaine, chard, spinach and the peculiar sweetness of sour limes. But even then, the taste of food became really impossible to explain in terms of sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness—much the same way that the joy of sex is impossible to explain with a sexual terminology tainted by porn, or to someone currently limited by pornthink.
Anoretics generally suffer from a lack of flavor—food becomes bland: you have to add salt or mustard, chew gum constantly, something to get a constant rush of flavor. It’s the same for people who are suffering from mineral or vitamin or protein deficiency—food loses its luster; you become depressed and listless and lose any interest in eating. This was a diametrically opposed experience.
What was also interesting was that when I began eating cooked foods again—for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because of capitalism, which is unfortunate because tropical fruit makes humans feel good—it was incredibly… bland.
I also couldn’t stand nearly as much salt anymore; it overpowered the food and ruined the flavor. Salt has its own flavor too, you know; a lot of the time I find this is actually the biggest reason why carnists find vegan food “bland.” There’s just not enough salt in it, and they’re used to salt.
This leads to my point: when you regularly condition yourself to a certain substance, you lose your ability to enjoy the same activities without that substance—usually to a greater rather than lesser degree. When I was younger and tried food without salt, it wasn’t that it had no taste; it had taste, I just couldn’t enjoy or appreciate it.
I literally built up a tolerance to a substance that was supposedly non-habit forming. My taste buds—my brain—got conditioned to only recognize flavor in the presence of salt; similarly, when you consume porn, your brain becomes conditioned to recognize sexiness and arousal only in the context of pornified sex (which basically isn’t very much like sex).
But my primary reason for writing this post was this: technology screws up your ability to enjoy life.
That could sound silly, coming from somebody who’s clearly writing this on a computer. But since I’ve realized just how badly technology impairs my ability to enjoy life, and to be fascinated and fulfilled by nature, I’ve actually been restricting my use of it.
When I lived in a tent with my best friend, I… experienced life, and joy, for the first time ever. Nothing in civilization can ever compare to the enjoyment of life I had then; you can’t experience true joy or fulfillment as long as you are bound to civilization. The reason I chose—and still long for—fruitarianism is that it is the only time that I can get any kind of approximation of that wholeness… 811rv allows you to experience the closest approximation of real life, of nature, that you can get in civilization.
And I had all these beliefs about nature and who I was and what I was capable of just utterly destroyed.
You know how teens and college-aged kids get bored when they’re sitting outside in nature? How older people can sit, and sit, and sit, and be entertained—by looking around or playing solitaire or just thinking? I was one of those kids too. I swore that I’d just die of boredom if I was ever caught without technology—my laptop, my GBA, my iPod… something to take me away from the slowness of nature.
Except that the opposite happened. I had my iPod, and I didn’t use it because I was just endlessly entertained, by talking, by thinking and by watching; I found an almost Buddhist sense of spirituality. There is this certain kind of… sense that is reinforced in you by even a temporary detox from technology, of the inferiority of civilization and human “ingenuity” in the face of nature. I completely lost any appreciation for architecture I once had, because architecture has no real visual texture; the intricacies of a tree—of a living organism—are endless. It redefines beauty. I like to say that of the entirety of what Yeshuah said, “Sell all your things and give them to the poor; and come, follow me,” was the most literal. You can’t have any understanding of love, life, and joy, of the inherent goodness and truth of nature, unless you are a wanderer… unless you reject civilization absolutely. Everything you think you know about the ruthlessness and callous violence of nature, and about the “benefits” of civilization, is a laughable lie. Nature may not necessarily be kind but it certainly isn’t cruel—it won’t hurt you simply because it doesn’t have a reason not to.
When I was forced back into “shelter,” it was awful—you don’t have any idea how it is to feel joy, to feel freedom, to finally understand what it means to say that nature is good, and to just… have that ripped away from you.
The worst part, I think, is that it’s never very long before you forget what it was like Before. Maybe it’s just too much for your mind to really comprehend—nature is not, after all, cruel or malicious; you reach a point where “pain” and “sadness” don’t really exist because there’s not much to compare it to anymore, it’s just normal. Just because it would be so much more painful to remember what it was like to be free, to be safe. The idea that you have to know sadness to know happiness is total bullshit: it only works one way. You can be happy all the time, because happiness is something default, happiness is necessary if you’re going to survive in nature. But you cannot be sad all the time without becoming numb, without forgetting what happiness ever was.
Eventually you’re just left with this uneasy wistfulness for an indistinct memory: you knew. You knew it was better… but you can’t remember anymore.
Technology still does this to me—to everyone; it conditions your brain to a faster but less detailed speed, to a speed where you actually can’t process many details. It conditions your brain to a lower textural quality while ramping up simplistic intensity to compensate.
You can look at movies from different eras to see my point; movies have gotten faster and faster as time has gone on, as advertising has had to continuously compete for effect and audience. I remember a point where I watched Star Wars in my early teens and actually thought it was kind of slow-paced. The same has happened with music, but I’m not glorifying the Beatles; their music also encouraged the loss of musical texture and complexity. Jonsi and Sigur Ros and 65daysofstatic are actually some of my favorite music because their music is so complex and filled with texture.
One of the most damaging things technology does, though, is make you impatient. Car drivers, gamers, television watchers, and even casual internet users become incredibly impatient; I don’t think you really hear or see yourselves. I also become incredibly impatient; I’m more likely to snap at my best friend if I’ve been using the computer at all, I’m more jittery and needy of stimulus. It makes you impatient.
And tired. Incredibly tired. Video games have the same effect on me, even for a small time, but if I keep playing I become overstimulated and can’t get to sleep, the same way as when I try to stay up when I’m tired.
Speaking of which, I’m very tired, so I’m going to end this post now.