Late Night Thoughts: Infatuation, Invention, Creativity, Pragmatism, and More

(About a 9 minute read)

It snowed last night.  Not a light, romantic snow either, but a heavy wet snow that piled up to seven inches on some of the tree branches, bowing them, sometimes breaking them.  Now and then a mass of snow would fall from one of the trees overhanging my cottage and land on my roof, sounding like some large animal had pounced on it.

◊◊◊

Most of us in America have been taught the difference between infatuation and love is a matter of duration.  If an attraction endures for a long time, then it’s love, but if it’s fleeting, transient, then it’s infatuation.  But even when I was in high school, I knew that was a greasy idea.

Because of Janet.

I met Janet the second semester of my freshman year, and I became infatuated with her the day after I met her.  That infatuation lasted five or six years, but I never mistook it for love.  I knew almost from the first moment I noticed it that it was infatuation. What I didn’t know was how to shake it off.

◊◊◊

Some years ago, I made a genuine, serious count of the most profound insights and creative inventions I’d discovered up until that moment in my life.

I went at it in earnest, left nothing out unless it was too minor, insignificant to include in the count.

There had been about a dozen.

Yet everyone of the ideas had been discovered by someone before me, someone whose work I was ignorant of until after I re-invented the idea myself.

And each of the inventions had, each for its own reasons, come to nothing.

“Thank you for writing up your proposal, Paul.  We appreciate the hard work you put into it, but we decided yesterday in an executive meeting not to pursue your idea.  Frankly, we don’t see a major market for it.  People will never purchase in droves a plastic card allowing them to make long distance calls from any phone”.

Two years later.  “Hey, could you tell me what these things are?”

“Oh, those are something new.  Seven-Eleven just started carrying them a couple days ago.  We call them, ‘Phone Cards’.  Buy one! They allow you to make long distance calls from any phone.

“Why are you crying, Sir?  Can I get you a towel?  Um…maybe a few…?”

“No. no. It’s too late, my shirt is already soaked.  It’s just that…that I’m so happy for you!”

“Sir?  Sir, I’m going for those towels right now!”

◊◊◊

I once thought creativity was a by-product of intelligence, but someone emailed me links to a few articles on the subject a couple years ago in what turned out to be a rather creative attempt to open the way to romancing me.

Seems creativity has been a subject of scientific study for a bit over 30 years now, and that it has little enough to do with intelligence.  There’s a kind of minimum threshold of sorts, but it’s not high, and if you’re smarter than that, then you might or might not be a creative person.

One of the scientist’s major findings: Especially creative people have brains hard-wired for it.

The woman who emailed me the links, by the way, ended up after a few back and forths, emailing me one of the most lengthy, vicious, and creative attacks on my character and life-choices that I’ve ever read the first few lines of before deleting.  Seems she was a wee little bit peeved to learn I was really, genuinely committed to celibacy.

◊◊◊

A month back, my young, 22 year old friend Sophie asked me “Why is sex shameful?  Even though I know in my mind there’s nothing to be ashamed of, I still feel shame.  Why is that, Paul?”

“Why are you asking me, Sophie?”

“Because you know everything, Paul.  You’ve told me so yourself!”

“Oh, that’s right!  Yes, I did.  But I forgot to mention to you that by ‘know’, I meant ‘I have an opinion about it’.  For me, you understand, those are the exact same things.”

“You’re such a real man, Paul.  Such a real man.”

“Thank you so much, Sophie!  Your lavish praise is so annoying.”

“Just get on with it.  What’s your opinion?”

“Well, I do know there used to be an hypothesis in anthropology and evolutionary psychology.  Maybe it’s still current.  According to it, sexual shame evolved in us as an instinct in order to facilitate male bonding, which allowed us to live in larger, more survivable groups.”

“Figures.  It’s always about you men, isn’t it?”

“This time it’s about you women, too.  You see, the notion is that our evolving feelings of shame meant couples quit having public sex.  And that meant male friendship bonds were not as often broken by the sight of another male getting it on with a delicious, desirable female that every other male jealously wanted.  Obviously, the anthropologists had you in mind, Sophie, because you’re so delectable!”

“I am NOT loaning you my money, Paul! Not a dime!”

“Delectable. Kind. Compassionate. Caring…”.

“Shuddup Paul!”

◊◊◊

It is so often necessary to see less truth in order to see a deeper truth.

 ◊◊◊

A few days ago, I was on my way to the corner store when a homeless man approached me with a smile on his mostly toothless face, and a whiff of alcohol on his breath.  “You look just like Arlo Gutherie!” He said.

Truth, it was he who looked like Arlo.  You could see the resemblance despite how his face had been warped over the years by the occupational hazards of long-term homelessness.

We carried on a lively back and forth for twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes.  It was a real conversation, too.  I made a point of that.  When I myself was homeless, the one thing I missed the most was being treated like I actually existed.

◊◊◊

It seems to be an American cultural trait to address problems pragmatically, except for human problems.  Back in the 1930s and ’40s, fatal, crippling, and maiming automobile accidents were almost as common as women in a coffee shop are today.

The problem was tackled with scientific precision.  Hundreds of studies were done.  Then change was brought about by dozens upon dozens of innovations.  Guard rails installed at key places.  Road curves redesigned to make them safer to negotiate at normal speeds.  Seat belts made mandatory.  Driving tests required before licensing.  Air bags.  Child safety seats.  And so forth.

None of the innovations was, by itself, anywhere near to being a solution to the problem.  But each innovation reduced the problem by perhaps as much as 1% or 2%.  And like drops of water filling a bucket, they began adding up.  Today, tens of thousands of people still die on the roads — there is much that remains to be done — but the carnage is not even close to what it once was.

That’s how Americans, at least until recently, tended to approach most problems.  Pragmatically.  But the exception has always  been “human problems”.  Then the Puritan rears up in us.  We become, not pragmatists, but moralists.  Not rationalists, but irrationalists.

Unwanted teen pregnancies, substance abuse, rape, homelessness, poverty, joblessness, scientific illiteracy, declining middle class incomes — these are all problems that could be solved almost overnight in relative terms.  Solved, or at least ameliorated, reduced to their lowest possible frequency, if only we would approach them with sustained, pragmatic efforts to solve or ameliorate them.

And some of us wish to do exactly that.

But apparently, not enough of us to matter all that much.  The Puritans, the moralists, for the most part have the upper hand in America.  We put men on the moon within a single decade of pragmatic effort, but we can’t even get effective comprehensive sex education taught in most Southern public schools, and all too many public schools in the rest of the country.

It isn’t sex that’s shameful.  It’s moralism.

23 thoughts on “Late Night Thoughts: Infatuation, Invention, Creativity, Pragmatism, and More

  1. I tried to think of one particular segment, but i love all of them 😀 It’s interesting, they all show the facets of your personality, can’t explain it any more than that. Although your last post is the most fascinating to read, since it’s practically a critique of Americanised thinking 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your compliments, Teresums! But please stay away from my personality! It’s under-age and I’ll be forced to report you to the authorities for exploitation of a minor if you start meddling with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Paul. I was wondering if you could send me some links on the evolutionary psychology you mentioned? I’m getting very interested in the subject, partly because of its (perhaps wrongfully) bad reputation among some feminist thinkers. I’m trying to do my research to get an idea of what people are talking about. Love the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Adriana!

      I came across the male bonding hypothesis for why we feel sexual shame in a 1999 book by the primatologist, Alison Jolly, called Lucy’s Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution. The book is, of course, outdated by now, but at the time she wrote it, the hypothesis was current. For all I know, it still is.

      I believe many folks, even relatively intelligent and informed folks, commit the naturalist fallacy when thinking about evolutionary psychology. That is, they on some level believe that merely because we evolved to behave in some way is a moral justification to behave in that way. Hence, they refuse to accept any notions that we didn’t evolve to behave as saints, because that — to them — would mean we are morally justified to behave as sinners.

      Such nonsense is sloppy thinking and should be stomped on. Unlike most other animals, our biology is not our fate. We have evolved the capacity to largely transcend it through learning.

      The other thing is, feminism is an ideology; and like every other ideology on the planet it tends to go into fierce, mindless denial whenever science contradicts it. On the whole, I am very supportive of feminism, but I am appalled by those feminists who behave worse than tantrum-throwing children when confronted by any science they don’t like, just as I hate to see the same behavior with supporters of other ideologies.

      Having said all that, if you are not too familiar with evolutionary psychology, you should be aware that it does indeed tend to be highly speculative, as it necessarily must be for the most part: We simply have no way of putting Homo erectus on the psychiatric couch to collaborate or disconfirm the hypotheses. Yet, there are intelligent ways of critiquing those speculations, and then there is the temper tantrum way. I wish people would not so often resort to the mere grasping for straws, unfounded allegations, and fallacious reasoning that characterizes the tantrums.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh I agree immensely! And i completely agree with your point on the naturalist fallacy. Although, I think feminism has legitimate fears when it comes to science. In the past, scientific arguments have been used to not only explain why women are this way or that way but rather why it is natural and healthy and GOOD for them to perform those traditional roles. Or rather that men are NATURALLY BETTER at leadership than women. These are such normative claims, they take the word “natural” or “normal” and make the leap that this SHOULD be the case. But evolutionary psychology and all science for that matter can be highly descriptive of us as animals and how we came to be this way. We are biological animals, and we cannot insist that we were born as androgynous blank slates. There needs to be a middle ground that works together with science. here is an article I am fascinated with. It takes down the social role theory as it relates to gender. It is called “Personality and Gender Differences in Global Perspective” by David Schmitt (among other people). It was published in the International Journal of Psychology.

        Like

      • WOW! Just wow! I read the abstract of Schmitt’s article, though I couldn’t get free access to the whole article. A single study does not an hypothesis make or break, but those are some important findings. If they hold up, so many of us will need to entirely rethink everything about sexual dimorphism in personalities. Thank you for so thoughtfully sharing that, Adriana!

        Your comments, which I quite largely agree with, put me in mind of Darwin’s belief that men had driven human evolution, especially the evolution of intelligence. Although in many respects he saw so much further than the people of his day, he was a slave to the Victorian notions of men and women. Probably because he never really studied those notions in any scientific way.

        The history of science shows again, and again, and again that a new idea in science never arises in a cultural vacuum. When I was growing up, most of the then current thinking on why our brains grew large posited that they had done so for the better handling of mostly male-oriented tasks like hunting animals.

        Then in 1992, Robin Dunbar published a paper that set off a nuclear bomb in the scientific community, a paper in which he reported his original research that powerfully suggested our brains had grown “huge” to deal with living in larger and larger social groups. Well, jeebers! That opened the door “the social brain theory”, and to the notion that women might have played not only an equal role in size evolution, but perhaps a predominant role!

        Now, what I think the progression from Darwin to Dunbar suggests is that topics in the sciences start out bound by the culture of the day, but tend to progress beyond those artificial boundaries via new empirical research. And I think you see this over and over in every field of science.

        The thing is, there is no practical way to prevent scientists from starting out bound by their cultures. And that unfortunately all to often means that the authority of the sciences ends up for awhile — sometimes a very long while — supporting bad ideas.

        Adriana, you are a delight to chat with! Such a wonderful mind! By the way, I wrote a wee bit about Dunbar’s social brain theory in a recent post condemning social darwinism, which — if you’re interested — you can find here. The post includes a link to one of his papers.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. FANTASTIC! I’ll go check it out. It is so true that science is fed by politics and culture which feeds back into politics and culture – it is all so fascinating. It is another one of my key interests: who gets to determine what is true? Is science that source of truth? It is all so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would make an outstanding blog topic, Adriana! You should write on that: “Who gets to determine what’s true?”

      I think I’m going to work up something on that myself. I don’t know when, though.

      What an idea! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, before I forget again to mention it to you, I recently heard of an astonishing discovery in genetics. Seems that human intelligence is inherited only from the female side. Males make no contribution to the genetic basis for smarts. So far as I know, it’s just the finding of one group of researchers, and it has not yet been collaborated at all, let alone gotten a weight of evidence behind it but — if it turns out to be true, then that provides support for Dunbar’s Social Brain Theory, among many many other things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What the heck that is CRAZY!!! I will look that up. I’m going to be honest, that sounds a little out there, but then again, all science sounds weird. Have you head of simulation theory in physics? This physicist theorizes that we are inside a giant computer run simulation. https://youtu.be/nnl6nY8YKHs that’s the video of the scientist explaining his theory. All theoretical of course, but still fascinating. I have gotten into some heated debates with my friends on that subject (my friends being one lawyer, one liberal arts photographer, a microbiology and physics major and me, a philosophy and theatre major). There has been some yelling. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! Some yelling, eh? Well, at least you and your friends are passionate about ideas!

        I’ve heard of the simulation idea. I don’t have the physics to make heads or tails of it, though.

        Like

  4. Paul, this is one of Buzan’s MindMaps in words, or did he steal that patent from you? And as for sex education, you should try the UK education experience. Lights out and British stiff upper lips, it is enough to drive a man to celibacy. Glad to have found your madness 🙂

    Like

  5. my humble opinion is infatuation is when we elevate someone beyond being human and incapable of faults, not love, that accepts shirt comings and imperfection. Infatuation is a one sided affair of the heart with a concept. Love in its true form is both ways giving and taking, sharing and being content without trying to change someone. Though I do agree sometimes its hard to separate these feelings in the early stages of a relationship or friendship. creativity comes out of necessity, no intelligence needed, the person who emailed you the links was creative and had a need which only you could fulfill at that moment, no intelligence needed for matters of the heart. Sadly you were committed to celibacy. – I thought that was hilarious – poor woman went to such great lengths to snare your attention, well at least she got a mention here. loved this quote from you – It is so often necessary to see less truth in order to see a deeper truth.- so often we don’t see the forest for the trees, we are so fixated on our own intellectual property we don’t see the beauty of simple truth. Maybe we should not be given this brain that can decipher and coin thought, have no intellectual property then the problems of the world would be solved. Sex would not be seen as shameful, but an action like eating or drinking, satisfying a functional and biological need, would men and yes women be better humans then? Love your thoughts and midnight musings, you would make a very interesting coffee share friend! Most of all I enjoy how you bring your life episodes into the picture making this not an abstract read but life in sections and happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comments, Gina, and also your very kind compliments! I would love to share conversations over coffee with you! What a beautiful idea!

      It was my therapist who insisted that I bring my life episodes into my posts. He read a few of my first posts — long since deleted now — and was appalled that I wrote like an academic journal! “No! No! No! You are committing blog suicide, Paul!” And then he patiently explained to me that I must tie every idea into a person whenever at all possible. Either me or someone else, but always connect the abstractions to the concrete. Some of the best advice I’ve had, I think.

      Those are some excellent insights into infatuation, I think, Gina. And I believe I’ve learned a thing or two from you here. Thank you so much for that!

      Better men and women? It will never happen, I think. Human nature seems about the same today as it was back when the scribes of Sumer were the first to complain about it in writing. Technology has vastly changed, but not so much us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • it does make your writing more personal adding the real, life examples and most people find it hard to weave that in, it is wonderful to read your real life experience and so yes your therapist is right, it has made your writing more “attractive” in that sense. As humans I suppose when we read we are either looking for new information or connection to the similarities with our own lives. Yes I do think conversation with you is very interesting! I think we as humans have changed but not for the good. We have evolved backwards I feel. Becoming more solitary and real human interaction gets even more sparse with advanced technology. Have you seen the movie SHE? Would we really be like that one day, and the rebels were the ones that sought human interaction against all odds?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have plans to watch SHE at some time in the near future.

        I do now and then miss the daily face to face interactions I had before the internet. When I go to the local coffee shop these days, everyone is absorbed with their laptops, their tablets, or phones, so it’s quite difficult to meet people. Fortunately, I have a circle of friends to lunch with, etc,, but not on a daily basis. The internet certainly has been a mixed blessing!

        Like

I'd love to hear from you. Comments make my day. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s