(About a 6 minute read)
The other day I woke up feeling pretty much under the weather. I stumbled onto my blog bleary-eyed and somehow deleted a whole post while trying to fix a mistake in grammar. After that, I spilled half a pound of coffee beans on the floor while getting almost not a one of them into my grinder. Not yet recognizing that it wasn’t my day, I wrote 500 words for a blog post before realizing I wasn’t making any sense even by my lax standards. This time the delete was intentional. A sane man would have gone back to bed at that point. Naturally, I didn’t.
Instead, I somehow got it into my head to catch up on what’s going on in politics.
I was still catatonic when the paramedics found me two days later After reading three or four articles the thought occurred to me that any sensible and informed person these days must feel a whole lot like I felt that morning: Our hopes and intentions are so far out of line with the bizarre reality of the times. It almost seems as if the feeling, “This isn’t my day”, has become expanded to include most of the world.
It is sometimes said that a difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are more concerned with humanity than they are with individuals, while conservatives are more concerned with individuals than they are with humanity. As Dostoevsky put it in The Brothers Karamazov, “The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular”.
It seems to me that — regardless of whether one is a liberal or a conservative — those two extremes are both inadequate in and of themselves. The liberal position leads to treating the people one knows like dogs, the conservative position leads to treating the people one doesn’t know like dogs.
Now, the older I get the more I expect to find such “twists” in life. That is, I have come to largely agree with Immanuel Kant: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”
What could our human nature not accomplish if our human nature did not stand in our way?
I recently came across an article stating that eating ice cream for breakfast improves brain performance. I immediately began dancing around my cottage for half an hour in gratitude to whatever deity or deities had arranged the world such than eating ice cream could be thought of as a duty.
Even since, I have been eating ice cream for breakfast, but alas! With no discernible results.
Still, this is not something to be lightly dismissed. One has a duty, you know. I must redouble my efforts. Obviously, the problem is I have not been eating enough ice cream to see any results yet. Obviously.
I think it was W. Edwards Deming who used to begin his graduate seminars with an experiment. He would place a large glass jar full of marbles in front of the class, which typically numbered about thirty students. Then he would ask the students to guess how many marbles were in the jar.
Their individual answers were typically wildly off the mark — either way too high, or way too low. And yet — consistently in class after class — when their answers were averaged, the result was within 5% of the actual number of marbles. As a group, the students were always more accurate than most of them were as individuals.
It seems to me quite possible that how people reason might be almost as subject to fashion as how people dress.
The rules for what constitutes good reasoning might not change much, but certainly what constitutes “acceptable” reasoning can change quite a bit. By “acceptable” I mean what a majority — or at least a large minority — of us think is good reasoning.
I suspect many of us don’t learn how to reason from a competent instructor so much as from media figures such as talk show hosts and their often questionable guests. Even advertisements teach a form of reasoning. It might not often be a sound form of reasoning, but it’s a form nonetheless. It would make an interesting study to see if the popularity of certain kinds of arguments changed from one decade to the next.
It seems possible that robots will at some point become sophisticated enough that someone will start making “lovebots”. That is, artificial lovers. At which point one wonders when sex education classes will become as hands-on as instruction in tennis or driving?
I have no idea whether such a thing will become commonplace in public education, but I can certainly foresee special academies for it — private schools that use robots to teach love making.
Then again, I think it’s only a matter of time before genetics advances to the point that we have pets with glow in the dark fur. I am, quite obviously, bonkers.
Is chocolate also good brain food? Might be. Better eat some just to be on the safe side. Is duty.
According to Barry Lopez, the Inuit word for “wise person” literally translates as, “one who makes wisdom visible [through their behavior]”. If we in the West had a corresponding translation for “wise person” it would doubtlessly be something along the lines of, “one who speaks wisely”, for we typically assume that someone who says wise things is actually wise.
Often enough, great intelligence, or great wisdom, is shown less by what someone says or does than by what they do not say or do.
An inability to laugh at oneself can be as creepy as showing up in a clown costume at a funeral.
We so often blame our emotions for the bad behavior of our psychological self. We say, for instance, that our anger at Smith got out of hand. But before there was our anger, there was our ego’s perception that Smith slighted us. Without that perception, we would not have been angry at Smith in the first place.