Sunday, March 09, 2008

124. Blue Horizons Continued: A Zen of Student Housing, and Housing in General

I am a bit sleep-deprived so, I will try my best to remain coherent... a far cry from eloquent. So, basically, there is this saying that revolved around the idea of "divorcing school and work from home," when I argue that this divorce is nearly IMPOSSIBLE. They both feed off each other tremendously--issues from home can impact how one functions at work or school, and events in a professional/public place can tremendously impact transactions at home (View 1, above).

The way how I think about these issues can be summarized as the "Conditional Ecological Mind." Or more the standard psychological paradigm of "Maslow's Ladder." There are quite a few stipulations of the Conditional Ecological Mind (CEM, new acronym, as usual...): (1) all life factors are greatly intertwined and impossible to divorce (as I have learned through my trials of disorder in high school) (2) if basic required needs are not met (from a momentary to daily basis) (usually "home" activities, takes about 12 hours a day to perform all necessary tasks e.g. breathe, drink, eat, sleep, exercise, groom, maintain social stability within kin), then you will have limited, diminished, or no ability at all to focus on optional "higher-functioning tasks" (e.g. schoolwork, job performance) (which ultimately bring home the dough that allow you to maintain your basic, required needs for survival). So, on a good schoolwork day for me, I am able to devote 12 hours of my time towards "intellectual entertainment / academic jigsaw-puzzling" given that the other 12 hours I have slept well, eaten well, exercised, maintained basic health, remained in good terms with family members, housemates, friends, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...."

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Art Sylvester emphasized that thinking about the environment is a "luxury" on its own. Most people are struggling day-to-day, just trying to get enough to survive and stay afloat. They don't have time to think longer term and bigger picture. They're just good surviving organisms. I agreed with Dr. Sylvester. I was at that point to, living the moment, but without any context or understanding that moment's relative past, and that moment's relative projection into the future. I told him I could get my basic life tasks done in 12 hours. And I have 12 hours free every single day to do something useful for myself and for this system. Even with these 12 hours I have lots of options--ranging from watching television, mindlessly surfing the internet, or even rotting my neurons through drug and alcohol consumption. But I chose a certain road... I suppose a road less taken... environmental multi-media and environmental problem-solving. Thinking about the environment is indeed a luxury... not a physical luxury, but an intellectual-mental luxury. So? I might as well not feel guilty and take advantage of this free space and time, allocated to optimized my own survival and sanity, as well as others' and this planet's. Hence again, this is the CONDITIONAL ECOLOGICAL MIND and how this concept can be useful to understand the discoordination of environmental problem-solving and change.

So, given the conditional ecological mind, I do several things in my life. If I show up to school, required to do a certain task under a personally stressful condition (lack of sleep, had family problems), I announce to the group I am working with my "physiological/pscyhological disclaimer." I first state that I am in a certain condition that might make me less functional or useful, and then I proceed to perform the task. Actually, stating my physiological disclaimer actually helps me focus better at school!

And again, why homeless people oftentimes cannot perform higher functioning tasks. A "home" is like a self-carved territory or microcosmal region that optimizes your acquisition of resources and optimizes foraging, safety, and self-maintenance. The modern home: a few minute drive from the grocery store, a few feet from the refrigerator, the bed, the shower, and the toilet. Pretty good, spatially optimized set-up. But when you are a homeless/nomad, you have no location to acquire such resources so you spend much more time trekking known/unknown space just to acquire resources and satisfy basic needs. Such are my days car camping in the Subaru. Takes a while to find a restroom, a place to clean up, a place to buy decent food... traveling is inherently inefficient.

The Zen of Student Housing: Bills. My freshman year at UC Davis, I made a simple epiphany. Now that I am "free from my parents," who are a few hundred miles away, I am still not "free." I still have "strings attached" to the surrounding region. For example, I still had to pay "bills" at my house/apartment. Bills on water, trash, energy, technological communications... from these companies that were either close or far away. So, I drew these "ecological strings" attaching my own mind to these "bills" which are then sent to "companies" that provide basic resources. My freshman year at UC Davis were full of simple epiphanies, such as these. The other two that pop out of my mind were (1) Vic's theory of Technological Laziness and (2) Humans are as interesting as their environments, and the environment is as interesting as the humans that live there. As for UC Davis, the environment is boring and flat... and the humans there were largely zombified white toast. Haven't been there since my freshman year. One day.... As for Santa Barbara, the people here are as healthy and as diverse and dynamic and energetic as the landscape around us. It's not a "pristine nature" but there's lots of open space....

Typical Ecological Strings Attached "Bills" for Student Housing: (1) water and trash (2) electric (3) gas (4) phone (5) cable / internet (6) parking (maybe)... and others? Basic (7) rent just to even occupy a territory of optimized resource acquisition.

So, given the Zen of Student Housing, what was so unstable that happened this summer? (1) I was living alone, which made me socially unstable and hypercreative (the positive aspect is that it made me bond with people in the rock crab film more so than if I had housemates). (2) I had unstable housing, such that I had to move within the last ten crucial days of the Blue Horizons program. I had all this "mental energy" (as Denise Bellanger calls it) wrapped around issues of basic maintenance rather than optimizing productivity toward finishing the rock crab film. Things ultimately worked out....

I do admit that some people optimize productivity at school or work as a form of denial or psychological displacement / distraction of energy from one dysfunction in their life or surroundings to another. For example, I know a few scientists who have family problems, but instead of dealing with them (maybe they didn't have the capacity to deal with them), they channeled all their energy to their work as a form of distraction. Another situation is I know that some sadistic French guy was extremely productive as a scientist, hiding out in a basement all during World War II figuring out the metamorphic life cycle of insects. What does this say? Honestly, I don't think I can do that. My mind is too integrated to be able to deny the existence of a problem of one life element. It would impact everything else in my life too much. But men, since they are more linear in reasoning (more neurons but less interconnected) and have the capacity to go through long bouts of tunnel vision, they have the capacity to do this "displacement/denial" behavior much more than females. This is just a casual observation based on my experience and systematic observation of male and female behavior on a daily basis.

To resume the Zen of Student Housing, I think it would be an interesting, amusing exercise to do a comparative history of Victoria's student housing situations, from the nerve-wracking UC Davis dorms (living with a slug of a roommate) to the heavenly Santa Ynez Apartments at UC Santa Barbara to my current housing situation with Julie, Kyle, Karl out in the boonies of Goleta (everything's great... except for the commute....) to the excessively communal living in Costa Rica (rooming with the most hyper character of the group) to the undergrad slums of Isla Vista: my sister Jenny's 6691 Sabado Tarde Party Central experience (live television of drunk college kids through the livingroom window, especially Friday and Saturday night), and the nightmare living situation residing in the living room with a Christian freak and her fiance, combined with sharing a room with a moody econ girl, David (a bitter mathematician), and Sean (a molecular biology stoner who used my big shiny red apples as bongs) (both David and Sean and I were graduates of the ARC Summer Research Program in 2001) (at one point, dishes were piled up in the sink for 8 weeks!). Two quarters of misery during my junior year... David had a crush on my good friend Maysha, which made things worse.... Then there's the whole drama of living with my parents, Jean and Chuck, a quarter out in the cowsmelling town of Norco (dairy farms converted to track housing) and sleeping in the living room at UCLA in a one-bedroom apartment with three girls right along fraternity row.... Well yes, I think this would be a very interesting, philosophically comical essay on comparative housing situations and why I was able to do very well in school during some housing situations and why I struggled to barely get by during other unstable situations.... It's kind of where I get my motto:

"Santa Barbara is a place where you can forget the rest of the world exists.
Riverside is a place where you chronically PRAY that the the rest of the world exists.
Davis is a place where you need to chronically, PHYSICALLY VERIFY that the rest of the world exists.
Los Angeles is the "world," but if the world is going to hxll, Los Angeles is going there first.
Reprhased: Los Angeles is a nice place to visit but a great place to leave!"

Such is a good summary of the regional influence of my California housing hopping experiences.


Vic needs to refer to this blog for a philosophical short film.

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