Absolutist Thinking, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Probabilistic Thinking, Thinking

Thinking in Absolutes vs. Thinking in Probabilities

SUMMARY:  There seem to be two basic ways of thinking.  That is, thinking in absolutist terms or thinking in probabilistic terms.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps wisdom consists in knowing when to use one or the other.

(About a 5 minute read)

When I became a fire fighter, I had to change some deeply ingrained ways of thinking.  For instance, growing up, I had thought largely in terms of absolutes.  Something either was or it was not the case.  My teachers were either good or they were bad.  An idea was either true or it was false.  A classmate was either nice or he or she was not.

Yet, few things are absolutely certain in a fire, and absolutely counting on something is a good way to get yourself — or your fellow fire fighters — injured or killed.  In fact, fire fighting requires realism perhaps more than anything else — including courage.  And realism often enough boils down to thinking in terms of the odds something will or will not happen.

That is, realism requires you to largely think in terms of probabilities.  The man in front of you on the hose line is not going to advance.  He is likely to advance.  The nine foot high wall of flames in front of you is not going to be knocked down by your stream of water.  It might be knocked down.  The room is not safe to enter.  It is possibly safe.

Continue reading “Thinking in Absolutes vs. Thinking in Probabilities”

Abuse, Human Nature, Ideas, Learning, Life, Living, New Idea, Self-determination, Self-Knowledge

Familiar Suffering

SUMMARY:  Why does it seem so many of us prefer to suffer, rather than do what seems obvious to others will bring about an end to our particular suffering?  Perhaps one reason is that we fear the unknown.  Perhaps another reason is that it is generally difficult to understand what would be better than our current circumstances if we are unfamiliar with what would be better.

(About a 3 minute read)

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I think many of us — especially when we’re young — now and then come across someone we believe we can save.  That is, someone who is recognizably messed up, but not so messed up that we deem them beyond “straightening out”.

Sadly, you cannot save, you cannot straighten out, someone.  They have to do it themselves. The most you yourself can provide is encouragement and — if you’re lucky — wise guidance.  But how many of us understand that about people before we ourselves have tried — often more than once or twice — to save someone?

I know that was a hard lesson for me to learn.  One of the hardest parts of it was to grasp that so many of us prefer the misery we know to the happiness we don’t know.

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Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Conservative, Democracy, Freedom, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Liberal, Oppression, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Society, Village Idiots

Traditional Conservatives vs Today’s Conservatives

SUMMARY: I make a sharp distinction between true conservatism and today’s most popular conservatism.  I then draw the conclusion that, while true conservatism is both necessary and good, today’s most popular conservatism is a radical and dangerous departure from it.

(About a 6 minute read) 

A curious thing about human politics is that it seems everywhere on earth to be roughly divided between “liberals and conservatives”.   That is, between people who are more or less inclined to experiment with new things, and people who are more or less disinclined to do so.

In recent years, there have been a number of scientific studies to see if there is some kind of biological or psychological basis for the division of human politics into those two camps.  A number of hypotheses have been proposed — such that conservatives lack empathy compared to liberals, or that conservatives are more likely to see the world as a hostile place compared to liberals — but so far as I know, none of those hypotheses has been backed up by a solid weight of studies except for one of them.

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Bad Ideas, God(s), Ideas, Logic, Philosophy, Religion

The Burden of Proof in Philosophy (Logic)

(About a 6 minute read)

The eternal conversation between theists and non-theists is often marked by humorous claims.  Such as when some theists claim that all non-theists are non-theists merely because they are angry at their god.  Or when some non-theists claim that all theists are irrational.  Sadly, the humor seems to escape a lot of folks on both sides.

In recent weeks, I’ve come across a claim by theists that, at least, is new to me.  I also find it humorous.  I wonder, however, whether it is not a growing fad.  I first saw it two or three months ago, and I have seen it twice again since then.  Could it be the latest craze in the eternal conversation?

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Art, Christianity, Creative Thinking, Creativity, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Invention, New Idea, Obligations to Society, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Society, Thinking

What Do Intellectuals Do, Anyway?

SUMMARY: American culture has a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism.  Consequently, few people understand or appreciate the role intellectuals can — and often do — play in a society.  In fact, many intellectuals can be seen as similar to cartographers in that they create ideas that can be used as guides to reality.  When they do so conscientiously and accurately, the whole society can benefit.

(About a 6 minute read)

It is a truism among people who study such things that American culture has, almost since the founding of the Republic, harbored a virulent anti-intellectual streak.  But the founders themselves were anything but anti-intellectual.

Franklin, for instance, was the leading American intellectual of their day, and Washington — possibly the most prominent non-intellectual of the era — often made efforts to improve himself in that department, for he did not think himself an equal to the others unless he could muster at least a passing familiarity with the great ideas of the time.

But almost with the deaths on the same day of Adams and Jefferson, American culture developed a marked anti-intellectual streak.  Some people have attributed that streak to the democratic suspicion of anyone who might appear to be smarter than oneself.  But while that might sustain American anti-intellectualism, anti-intellectualism seems to have gotten its start in religion.

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Beauty, Buddhahood, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Religion, Self, Self-Integration, Sense of Relatedness, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Wisdom

The Dance of the Cosmic Dancer

SUMMARY: The image of a cosmic dancer appeals to many people and is open to many interpretations, including the notion presented here that it represents the state of consciousness of a spiritually enlightened person.

(About a 7 minute read)

The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, enjoyed attributing his own thoughts to others.  Thus, he interpreted Nietzsche’s “Cosmic Dancer” to be someone who dances between opinions and points of view, rather than resting heavily on any particular opinion or point of view.

Although Nietzsche himself never quite saw it the same way, Campbell’s image is an attractive one.  Not only is there truth to be found in an ability to see things from many points of view, but in both intellectual and spiritual terms, it is the very opposite of fanaticism.

Images have a way of taking on a life of their own.  What is created to symbolize one thing can soon come to symbolize many things.  Some long time ago, I posted on this blog one possible interpretation of the cosmic dancer image (You can find that post here, if you’re interested).  Since then, the post has gotten at least a few hits a month, mainly — if the search terms are any indication — from people looking for a definitive interpretation of the term “cosmic dancer”.

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Emotional Dependency, Human Nature, Ideas, Infatuation, Life, Living, Love, Lovers, Relationships

Infatuation

SUMMARY: People often distinguish between love and infatuation on the basis of how long each is purported to last.  Love is said to last forever, while infatuations are said to be brief and fleeting.  This post proposes that infatuations are better defined as emotional dependencies.

(About a 3 minute read)

I have probably heard a hundred or more times in my life someone confess to me that he or she married their partner — not because they loved them — but because they were infatuated with them.  Never once have I heard someone say that worked out well.

But what, exactly, is infatuation?

In common thought, infatuation is to be distinguished from love mainly by how long it is assumed to last.  That is, an infatuation is seen as of brief duration, while love is thought to always be enduring.  But I have problems with that definition.

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