Better (Valentine’s) Days Ahead

Man wearing a jacket that reads"THE FUTURE WILL BE DIFFERENT" painting a mural with a big, winged, gold heart.

You and I both know that V-day is just a bunch of hot air. Overpackaged, environment-be-damned, chocolate-scented air. Not an actual antidote to despair.

When I read in ADBUSTERS that we buy more stuff when stressed-out, tired, and made to feel alone, it made sense of all the algorithms. Of commercials cutting in exactly at the climax. Of the user-surly interfaces exposing intelligent eyeballs to unnescessary, extra steps for no other reason:

more confusion = more consumption.

A happy populace wouldn’t know the term “retail therapy.”

Valentine’s Day sells far more than red-pink, heart-shaped crap. I think it’s commercially viable because it compels countless people to buy other crap, too.

Man wearing a jacket that reads"THE FUTURE WILL BE DIFFERENT" painting a mural with a big, winged, gold heart.

Love as a Life-line?

If all the oceanic-plastic-wrapped flowers won’t give you the oceanic feeling of oneness… If red-and-pink mylar balloons won’t keep us afloat, what will? Engagement rings? True love?

Maybe.

But the stakes can be horrifyingly high if she’s the only worthwhile person in your life.

How about true life? A life that the love of your life… would gladly join you in…

V-Day isn’t D-Day

Valentine’s Day is built up in the minds of the masses as a day to betrothe and conquer. To pretend to prove what’s already there with a proof-of-purchase, and call it romance. To “win her love” as if it could be lost at the casino.

It’s a day to throw trinkets at her too artificial to win true love.

Rather than wondering how many years of Valentine’s Days might pass before you meet a soul-mate (or fuck buddy) and participate in this cute, fun, soul-cheapening ritual, I hope you’ll give the following nonsense at LEAST equal consideration.

Backcasting

Forecasting is done based on events from the past.

Forecasting can be all you need. Even very basic models of reality can help us anticipate a reasonably wide variety in the kinds of things that might happen. Variations on a familiar tune: what has gone before. Rudimentary models can be accurate, helpful, and reliable enough, if you’re satisfied with the future being a variation on the past.

However, if you want/anticipate/need something BETTER (or completely different) than you’ve experienced in the past, unsophisticated forecasting is self-limiting:

Only highly nuanced simulations — ones that account for all kinds of variables — can prevent your forecast from being either way off (feels wrong/bad) or rhetorically calling into question all reasonableness of hope for any results beyond presumed parameters. In other words:

Forecasts are crap if they’re based on crap (limited) measurements.

‘Backcasting’ is a weird word meant to be just silly enough to allow a sandbox for that liiiittle bit of curiosity you might have for what a happy life might feel like, free of having to know exactly how to get there before deserving a nice sensation or two. There are neuro-biological tricks for half-inhabiting a desirable future on a nuanced level — and realizing which parameters to start measuring in the present.

I hate positivism and visualizations.
‘Affirmations’ have the opposite of their intended effect.
Magical thinking causes terrible debt.

This is not that.

Deadline-free

Backcasting probably won’t work for you if I instruct you on exactly how to do it.

What?

You read that right. I’m not going to explain how.

Why not?

Because it requires the dopamine of inventing it for yourself. Emphasis on for yourself.
Try? In a few weeks, I’ll share how *I* do it for myself in my end-of-Feb workshop “First Aid for Heartache.” Meanwhile, you’re an independent investigator.

Just one tip:
allow there to be a day in the far, far future free of Valentine’s stress. A V-Day when you don’t even care it’s Valentine’s, because that deadline/life-line has become far less urgent, and kissing couples no longer irk you.

Giving Yourself Survivor’s Bias

After surviving many comrades in unimaginably viscious concentration camps, Victor Frankl was asked how he stayed sane.

He described having watched peers’ spirits grow thin from repeated cycles of hope and disillusionment. Optmistically anticipating liberation as a life-line, their disappointment was as inevitable as it was devastating. Constant emotional roller-coastering wore them out. In the horrific conditions they were worked to death in, perfectly righteous, understandable, valid demoralization can be the difference between surviving… or not.

Frankl himself anchored his perspective in a day far, far beyond mere liberation; being asked to lecture on how it had been “in the camps long, long ago,” got him through.

He envisioned (forecast, or backcast, if you will) the future in which others would want to know. Want to learn. Want to explore ethics… and what leadership structures debase us all.

Rather than suffering under hope and disillusionment — and resenting the oscillation between them — Frankl opted to live from a future in which he would want to have survived.

I hope you’ll do the same.
If it’s hard to do alone, I’d be honored to support you in late February at “First Aid for Heartache — How to Stop the Bleeding.”

I want to invite you to do the same.

Man wearing a jacket that reads"THE FUTURE WILL BE DIFFERENT" painting a mural with a big, winged, gold heart.

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