I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
March 06, 2016 - 12:33 p.m.
My computer's disk use problem fixed itself. My computer would lock up and the task manager said "Disk 100%." What that means is that the CPU was reading the hard drive 100% of the time. I searched for solutions online, it's not an uncommon problem and none seemed to work. Then it just stopped. I don't know if the last solution I used did work and it just needed to be restarted for it to take effect or perhaps the last Windows update fixed it. Whatever it is it's nice to have my computer back in working order. The disk use now sits at 0%. Our brains are far more complex but people expect explanations of our glitches.
I guess that means I should discuss the way our minds work. I have started putting MSG into most things I cook. Some of you are horrified at that idea, "It gives me a headache." There's no good evidence that MSG gives anyone headaches. It's very easy to fool yourself into thinking that it does. In fact, the first time I used it I started thinking about the headaches claim and started to get a headache. It was caused not by the MSG but by thinking about headaches. I have not been bothered since. But there's a flip side to this. I'm not sure that MSG is really making my food taste better. I could just as well be imagining that; umami is such a subtle flavor. I had the same dilemma with Irish Gold butter, does it taste better than regular butter? Is it enough to justify its cost? I finally gave up on it. I'm not missing it.
The point I'm trying to make is not about MSG or Irish butter, it's about the ways we can fool ourselves. People get insulted when you say that they might be fooling themselves or that other people are fooling themselves. They shouldn't. it's not arrogance on the part of the people saying it. It's the clear evidence that people's judgement is unreliable and that includes myself. I always question my own judgment.
This next thing is very hard to deal with because I don't want to do the very thing that I'm decrying. Facebook is filled with political posts now and I find that so many bother me and it has nothing to do with the political content but the way it's presented. People are not putting themselves in the place of their readers. One post started with only a slight rewording "To the arrogant believers in X …." As a believer in X I stopped reading at that point as would any believer in X. When you do something like that all you succeed in doing is polarizing people. You are hardening the positions of the believes in X and inciting them to lash out at the believers in Y. I've seen extremely intelligent people that I respect do this. I understand the emotional appeal but just stop and think for a moment of the consequences of your actions. And it's not just the believers in Y that do this. The believers in X do too. So do the believers in A, B, C, … Z. It didn't hit me till this moment but I was just thinking about something very similar that I can talk about. In read four comics, one is Pearls Before Swine by Steven Pastis. He had a series of anti-vegan strips where one of the characters is the Arrogant Vegan, or was it the Judgmental Vegan? Something to that effect. As you know I'm not a vegan, I'm not a vegetarian, I joke that I'm a meatan. But I found those strips offensive. I know lots of vegans; literally some of my best friends are vegans. They bore no resemblance to the straw man vegan Pastis drew. At around the same time and perhaps not coincidentally another strip I read Non Sequitur had a series where a vegan character discussed the benefits of veganism. While I disagreed I found those strips far more enjoyable. It's about tone and showing respect for those that disagree. It's not about venting to feel good. There is so much that I'd love to say that I don't as I know its effect would be the opposite of the one I desire. Yes, those people are wrong. That's what makes them "those people." But I can't see any possible good of me saying that. I am not talking about moral issues. It's fine to say murderers are bad. But you'll find good people who take outrageous political positions. I have eight Facebook friends that like Donald Trump. They aren't terrible people Some are very sweet and caring. I don't get it. I don't know how they are fooling themselves. But it's good for me to know that good people can like him. If you want to know which of your friends like him just type "My friends who like Donald J. Trump" in the Facebook search box. Just make sure to see that they actually say, "Likes Donald J. Trump" in the small print after their name. I have two friends that liked some joke site and it says that the like the Donald even though they despise him. But it's clear from the way they are listed that they don't actually like him.
And that reminded me of something else that came up in therapy last week that has to do with how people fool themselves. Rationality and empiricism are my touchstones and few things get my dander up more than mysticism and pseudoscience. My reactions to two friends that go in for that sort of thing are polar opposites. One will go on about the new miracle therapy or diet or practice that will cure all her physical and spiritual ills. She has been doing this since I met her. When she isn't doing that she's complaining about her physical and spiritual ills. It never seems to strike her that all these miracles don't work. To her it means that she needs to find another therapy, diet, or practice to complement the ones she's already doing. By the way rejects therapy from psychologists. My other friend does very similar things but is pretty much happy all the time. She isn't trying to fix her life but to enrich it. If finding the color of her aura makes her feel good I'm not that upset with her. And unlike the first friend she doesn’t constantly try to talk me into doing it or proselytize on Facebook. Just a reminder I use female pronouns on all people of unspecified gender.
So have I done the things that annoy me when I wrote this? I tried not to but perhaps I did. At least I made the attempt to be good. And now for my matzoh brei breakfast. Then I have to head out to the 90-second Newbery Film Festival at the Brooklyn Public Library.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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