The problem with the world is people

My writing in this blog has dropped off again lately, but I haven’t really felt like explaining why, until I read today’s comic by Xkcd:

Xkcd, June 26th

I’d say this sums up my thoughts on certain things. For some reason, after some bad incidents this week, I just felt very tired of being around people. It seems that aside from my beloved wife and daughter, I feel like I am constantly contending with people, as if the world is too crowded, and people constantly jabbing and nudging each other. This is both on the Internets and in real life. I guess this is a problem that boils down to too many people in too little space, contending for too few resources, and too many self-centered, biased ideas about how things ought to be.

So, like the fellow in the cartoon, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone in study. Math is not my forté, so I prefer studying Japanese-language and UNIX. For example, I am quite happy with the latest version of OpenBSD (4.5) for example, which runs much better on the latest version of VirtualBox (2.x). Compared to before, I get X to work much more reliably, and recent improvements to OpenBSD package make things work a lot better. Also, enjoying the classic UNIX book, UNIX System Administration Handbook, which dovetails nicely with the recent OpenBSD fun above. As for Japanese, that continues to be a favorite subject of mine, which I continue to update here. More on that in an upcoming post. :)

I would study Buddhism, but I have had enough of that, and other Buddhists, for a while.1 On the flip-side, I have been doing a lot more meditation than I had done in a long time, and trying out various ideas I learned from re-reading Master Yin-Shun’s book, The Way to Buddhahood,2 plus just some other stuff. This is not meditation as a practice. I gave up on that flawed-approach a while back. When ever you take something in Buddhism and make it a “practice”, you kind of take the fun and joy out of it and turn it into a chore. My wife’s sagely advice on the subject seems salient here.

Also, going back and appreciating the Tao Te Ching, whose advice I think often overlaps with Buddhism, though obviously not always. Also, enjoyed reading God Emperor of Dune again, which is a difficult read, but speaks a lot to collective and recurring patterns we call “human behavior”.

So that’s it for this week. Have a good weekend!

P.S. The picture above illustrates why I never liked attending parties in college, much less so now. Too much inane conversation. Even now I almost never bother to go with friends to the pub here in Ireland. Just too much of the same pointless conversations, when I could be peacefully by myself studying something I like, or writing this blog. :)

1 Ironically as I write this, my recently ordered book on Yogacara/Hosso philosophy was just delivered to my desk at work. Ok, maybe I’ll read one more book. As for other Buddhists, well, just tired of the whining and sniping I hear online. Experiences on the ground have always been different for me, but I can never translate these to people I meet online well enough. By the way, this is not addressed to readers, but is targeted to the mainstream Buddhist groups online (including certain periodicals).

2 Still one of my top 3 favorite books. Lately something else I heard reminded me almost verbatim of advice that Master Yin-Shun had written. I never realized how true much of his advice was, and it makes me realize how under-appreciated his contributions to modern Buddhism are.

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10 Comments on “The problem with the world is people”

  1. jmcleod76 says:

    Totally understand where you’re coming from here, Doug. I’ve always sort of felt like an outsider. Not in an angry, alienated way. I feel a warm affection for everyone I meet and genuinnely wish them well. In my better moments, I can percieve how we are interconnected. But, for the most part, I have no interest in the things “most people” seem to find fascinating. “Most people” just bore me. Not because I’m “better” than them. Just because I’m different.

  2. Marcus says:


    A verse from the Dhammapada springs to mind (ch.21):

    Whoever can sit alone, rest alone,
    act alone without being lazy, and control oneself alone
    will find joy near the edge of the forest.

    Enjoy skipping the dumb parties and endless inane conversations friend, I wish I’d given them up years earlier myself. And yet I still find myself involved in Internet conversations (more like horrible nasty point-scoring contests) that never go anywhere. It is hard to avoid, but, you know, practice…. practice….

    All the best,


  3. eksith says:

    “I just felt very tired of being around people”

    Welcome to my world! :D

    For the longest time, I wondered why most of my co-workers thought I was partly deaf or at least suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome. Turns out I’m just slightly obssessive and eager to drown out the dribble with my work. Also the same reason I haven’t gone to temple in like forever.

    On a side note, I’m still waiting for a day where OpenBSD would get a facelift the same way as Mac OS has done to the BSD core.

    As a platform, its stability and security is really above and beyond the call of duty (though 4.5 still seems to have a noticably sharper slowdown curve than FreeBSD under heavy load), but in terms of user friendliness… Well, let’s just say I would feel more comfortable sticking my fingers into a Venus Flytrap.

  4. Kendall says:

    I feel the same way as yourself and the other commenters. Maybe it’s a common Buddhist quality/characteristic. I some times get where I feel I just need to get away from people’s ridiculousness. I often find myself wondering why so many people consider them self better than animals when so many people act no differently than them.

    It’s a passing feeling though. I enjoy being around people for the most part, but I’m not very social as I find stuff that people to be very boring and pointless, such as drinking and partying. I prefer to kick back at home with a home cooked meal, hanging out with friends having semi-intelligent conversations, as well as studying up on my Japanese and watching anime and doing some web development.

    I’ve never understood why some people feel it necessary to gossip about others. Maybe they don’t find their own life to be entertaining enough. Just a sign people need to become happy with them self before they can be happy with life.

  5. friskyfrogdog says:

    HI Doug,
    I enjoyed your posting and the comic. Great image! Yes, I often feel the same way. In my recent posting, I was thinking of the struggle where, I do like some people around to some degree, to create some energy – but, most of the time I want to be alone. But, then, sometimes, like summer, when most of campus is empty, it feels so lonely and quiet. So, then, why doesn’t that make me happy? I’m not sure. Yoga helps though!
    But, I’d sure rather have empty office than boring gossip at “party.”…

  6. Doug says:

    Thanks all for your support. It’s good to see I am not the only one. Much appreciated! :D

    Eksith: As for BSD, I would use FreeBSD in a heartbeat, as I like it’s design better, but it still kernel-panics in VMBox, even with the latest versions so I can’t use it. :(

  7. eksith says:

    This could be a problem with the VM though.
    Any chance you could get an old junker PC and trying again?

  8. Doug says:

    Actually, every junker I’ve tried has had issues. I just have really bad luck wiht FreeBSD. I never got it to work, even though I know it’s very popular with folks. Just bad luck I think.

    Yeah, I think VM is part of the issue, but something in FreeBSD’s kernel isn’t being resilient enough with intense read/write operations either. And yet works fine in OpenBSD.

  9. JonJ says:

    I think I see what you might mean by a “practice” becoming a chore–that may be why I don’t do zazen every day at a prescribed time, the way they say you’re supposed to. But then I don’t brush and floss every day the way I should, too.

    I find it better to combine various “practices” in such a way that none of them are “chores,” but overall they add up (I hope) to something worthwhile. Best of all is just dropping into something like that “no-mind mind” once in a while in daily life.

  10. Doug says:

    But then I don’t brush and floss every day the way I should, too.

    Exactly. Brushing teeth is good for you, but you don’t force yourself to do it at the same time everyday, for exactly 3 minutes.. You do it when you can, as opportunity allows, knowing that its good for you. :)

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