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Tag Archives: Being a Decent Goddamn Human Being

You hear the phrase “constructive criticism” a lot, don’t you? Sometimes people use it in the way that F-22 jets deploy flares against heat-seeking missiles—to draw attention away from them and off to something else. “Don’t be so sensitive; I was just offering constructive criticism.”

I’ve thought about doing a post on criticism and feedback for a while now, so this has been a long time coming. In this next few hundred words, we’ll go over (briefly) the difference between critique and feedback, and which one is more helpful in different situation.  I’ll close by talking about how I give constructive criticism, why that criticism is constructive, and some easy ways to make your own critiques more constructive as well. I don’t know much about critiquing sculpture, but I do know how to critique writing, and that’s what I’ll be drawing on throughout this post.

First of all, like any good philosopher, I’m going to get us clear on our terms before anything fun happens. This is where all the important moves occur in a philosophical text—at the very beginning, when you decide what words mean. When we define the meaning of our terms, we choose what we want to emphasize about them, and what we want to downplay. Define your terms adroitly enough, and you can change the entire interpretation of your text.

(So the next time you have to read something that doesn’t seem quite right, look at the way they introduce their terms, and the way they are defining their words. Chances are, they’re doing some work “off the page”—by changing the definitions of their words in mid-page, or by using a different definition than you are.)

So what, exactly, is criticism? Isn’t it the same thing as feedback?

Well, yes. The way most of us talk about criticism and feedback, you can fairly safely use the two words as meaning the same thing. But the point I want to make in this blog post requires me to separate the two of them, to drill down through the “general” meaning and make a big deal about the subtle difference between the two.

Feedback is a response. It’s also an A/V term (that stands for audiovisual, for those of you who aren’t tech-savvy), more specifically, an audio term. In a recording- tech sense, feedback is what happens when there is an overlap between an input and an output, e.g. (for example) a microphone within range of a speaker. I mention this to help make a point in a few sentences, but I’m going to use a semi-psychological definition for feedback, though, because using that definition helps me to explain why I am right.

The way I always think about feedback is as a response. Audio feedback is a response to something occurring in the environment. In behavioral psychology, feedback is the response the brain gets following an action. So if you are a rat in an experiment, you push a button and get feedback. That feedback can be positive (you get a delicious raisin) or negative (you get a terrifying and painful electric shock).  The feedback then affects your behavior: if you receive positive feedback for pushing the button, you are going to push the button more often. If you get negative feedback for pushing the button, you are going to want to stop pushing the button as quickly as possible.  So when would you give feedback in this sense? Well, when you want to encourage or discourage activity. For example, when you show up late to a party and someone saved you a slice of cake, you thank them, giving them positive feedback which makes them want to perform similar actions in the future. If someone steps on your toe, you give them negative feedback by saying “OUCH THAT HURT YOU SON OF A”, to make them want to think twice before stepping on your toe again.

Criticism is slightly different in this view. If feedback is a response, then in the context of art, feedback is your response to a piece. Responses differ from one person to the next. Some people love Thoreau. Others can’t stand poetry at all. Some people like Tim Burton’s films, while others dislike the dark, gothic atmosphere his works project. Some people like Taylor Swift’s music. Others are wrong.

The point is; feedback is what you think about a piece. If you say “I loved that movie!” then you’re giving feedback. If you say “ugh I hate this song,” you’re giving feedback. That feedback then communicates to whoever is listening, either encouraging them to do something (watch the movie again, or talk about the movie more, or, if you’re lucky enough to be talking to a filmmaker, to inspire them to develop more films like the one you loved) or discouraging them from doing something (such as never playing that song again around you—or entirely avoiding songs in that genre). Feedback is a response to stimulus, which can encourage or discourage the repetition of that stimulus. This is how feedback can make or break a young artist’s interest in creating—if they happen to get only negative feedback—by sheer random change—then they will be sufficiently discouraged to avoid that activity in the future. Conversely, if an artist gets enough positive feedback, they will have the encouragement and reinforcement they need to go on creating.

Criticism is not just whether or not you like the subject matter, or the writing style, or the performance. “True” criticism is a careful analysis, with a totally different purpose. We’ll talk directly about writing now for the sake of simplicity:

Feedback is about whether or not you ever want to read the piece again, regardless of how good it is. Criticism aims to provide the writer with a way to make that piece—or the next one—better.  It is a deliberate evaluation of the successes and failures of the subject, which provides recommendations both on what to change, and what to keep the same.  When you offer criticism, you recognize the subject’s merits and faults equally, measure them against one another, and suggest ways for moving forward.

Now that we’re all on the same page, it’s time to talk about constructive criticism. What does this term mean? Well, remember, we generally talk about criticism and feedback like they were the same thing. We also talk about criticism as if it were negative feedback, which makes things even more confusing. When someone criticizes you, we interpret that as meaning they are discouraging you from doing something—which is, as we know, the definition of negative feedback.  In my opinion, constructive criticism is a way that we try to reclaim the difference between feedback and criticism—to emphasize that what is being provided is intended to make the subject better.

I think most people don’t understand how to give constructive criticism. Often, when people offer “constructive criticism,” they are simply giving negative feedback, discouragement that is badly disguised. Other times, when people provide constructive criticism, they focus solely on the bad things, and not on the good.

I’ve always found that constructive criticism works best—which is to say, it provides the most improvement in the subject of critique—when it incorporates both critique—an analysis of the subject’s faults and virtues, suggestions on how to improve—and positive feedback—encouragement to continue. I’ve written a separate little blurb about how to provide constructive criticism to writers. 

So when you go about your life, listen closely to how people talk about feedback and critique. When they say they’re giving constructive criticism, are they really trying to help you improve? Or are they just giving you negative feedback—discouragement? People use the terms interchangeably, so they might not even notice the difference unless you point it out—although you should also note for yourself, why would you point it out? To help improve the way they interact with others? Or to discourage them from giving feedback?

Being clear on these ideas of feedback and criticism can improve not only your ability to edit other peoples’ work, but also to edit your own—and change the way you interact with people in your life. Knowing whether or not you want to offer criticism or feedback can be empowering—because sometimes, you just want somebody to stop making racist jokes. Sometimes, people do things—and really enjoy things—that they absolutely suck at. Knowing the difference lets you ask yourself; “which one should I use? What do I intend to accomplish?”—which can make you more mindful, more helpful, and more encouraging to the people around you. And who doesn’t want that?

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

I like critiquing other peoples’ written work. It’s fun for me. People write the way they think, and it’s fascinating to see the way other people think. When I critique other peoples’ written work, I have a certain process I go through.  It’s taken me a few years to see that I even have a process—but I do, and I think it’s high time it was written down.

This sequence was developed critiquing essays and short stories. It works most directly for those—but you can extrapolate it to provide constructive criticism for something as long as a novel, or as short as a haiku. Be warned: this will take a lot of reading to do properly. But don’t worry too much: if you’re practiced at it, the whole process won’t take long.

  • Read the piece as a whole. Does the author succeed in saying their part? Did they end too early? Do they make their point halfway through and then keep talking for no reason? Strip away the Read the bare text. Can the text express itself adequately even without the idea in mind?
  • Re-read the piece as a whole. Focus on what the author is trying to say. Get inside their idea. What is the intention of the piece? Go beyond what the actual text says—go to the idea. Can you tell the idea of the piece from what is written there?
  • If you can get the idea from the text—why? That means the author succeeded. Where did they succeed, and how can they do it again next time? If you can’t—why not? If you can’t figure out what the idea of the piece is from the text alone, the author failed somehow. Where? How can they fix it?
  • What did you really like about the piece? Writers are not like numbers—they do not have a single positive or negative value. If you can’t find a single thing you like about the piece, the problem isn’t the writer. Read it over and over again until you know exactly what you love about it.
  • Now go through specifics, one paragraph at a time. What sentences are done really well? Where is the author eloquent, brilliant, flawless? What sentences are done poorly? Where does the train of thought get confusing? Highlight sentences in both of these categories—done well and done poorly.
  • Get out your grammar book. Hunt out the little errors. Deploy the red pen with ruthless glee.

When steps 1 through 6 have been completed, go back to the author. Start with number 4. Tell them the things you really liked, and tell them why. Once you have built that groundwork of positive feedback, move into number 3. If they succeeded in expressing the main idea of the text, congratulate them. That’s the hardest part of writing. If they didn’t, don’t just tell them they failed. Tell them how, and tell them how to fix it. If you don’t know how they can fix it, then your job as critic is to help them figure it out.

Finally, when you’ve taken care of that, you can move on to the small stuff—5 and 6. Explain the good sentences and the bad ones, and offer suggestions for how to fix the bad ones. At this level, it’s ok to not know how to fix the confusing sentences. That problem you can give to the writers—chances are, they’ve already spent time wrestling with that sentence even before you saw it. Finally, bring the grammar book out and fix all the little issues that remain.

And boom. It’s just that easy! You’ve just given constructive criticism to a writer. Now not only do they feel good about their work, they’ll have a good idea of how to improve it–from the global scale, all the way down to individual sentences and Oxford commas.

Hey nerds,

I’m back.

You can blame my anthropology teacher for this one, guys.  No, but seriously.

Well, among other people.  Brain Trust, Horsemen, y’all are in there.  And youyou are in there twice.

AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED, my blog was on a brief indefinite hiatus for most of the school year.  But thanks to a perfect storm of schoolwork finishing, work ending, and my own life kicking things up a notch, I’m BACK, BITCHES, and better than ever.  Also, fair warning, some profanity.

A new year is a perfect time for reflection, and that’s what I’m doing.  I’M GONNA BE LIKE A GOD DAMN MIRROR UP IN HERE.

There will be posts occurring with nigh-weekly frequency once again! I’ve said that before.  But just like the bad half of an abusive relationship, I TOTALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME.

That was in poor taste. Oh well.

Blast from the past time:

Let me be the first to welcome you to Jung, Wilde, and Free—a blog which relates the life of an American teenage dude, homeschooled and obsessed with C.G. Jung and Oscar Wilde. Expect frequent discourses upon the topics of marine biology, internet memes, music, films, Dungeons and Dragons, and astrophysics. Beware of frequent rants related to politics, lax food safety standards, or the rampant emotional retardation sweeping whichever benighted metropolis I happen to inhabit at the time.
And, bring your thesaurus—the words will fly fast and thick. Most of these posts, I hope, will be family-friendly—but if you’re going to show them to younger siblings or children, please screen them first, as sometimes I get a bit carried away.

I was a precocious eighteen-year-old.

Many things have changed since that first post four years ago.  I am no longer entirely homeschooled—now, I am a college student at a prestigious college located in a warm, sunny part of our country.

hell froze over

 In the last four years I’ve had great successes (like my enthusiastic and headlong involvement in the Sustained Dialogue movement) and equally exciting failures (the reason I can make relationship jokes in extremely poor taste).  I’ve made great friends and people who rate too low on the food chain to be allowed to breathe.  I’ve learned many things, forgotten things that were once important to me, and rediscovered them with great enthusiasm.  I’ve fallen in and out of fortune, favor, and love. It’s been a hell of a ride.  

In the course of those years, I’ve come to realize a few things.  Things which I wish I had known before.  Things which I think I could always stand to be reminded of.  So without further ado, here they are: the top five things I’ve learned in the last four years, accompanied by COOL MOVING IMAGES.

5. Go for the throat.

Do you want something? Then go after it full throttle.  (get it? Throat, throttle? Ha ha ha. I’m hilarious) But seriously.  As long as you’re going to do something, do it all the way.  Whether it’s something long or short-term, there’s no reason to do it if you’re not in it to win it.  You’ll learn the most (and grow the most) if you’re working at the very edge of your own ability.  So fling yourself headlong into work, school, life, or love.  If it’s what you want to do, then fucking do it.   Only lesser life-forms hesitate.  Trample the shit out of them.

4. Who gives a shit?

I loathe the term “guilty pleasure.” Despise it.  Don’t be ashamed of what you enjoy.  Do you like “girly” music? Do you like a movie that’s “problematic?” GOOD.  ENJOY IT.  Love it intensely.  Know its limits, learn it inside and out.  Take true pleasure in it, and take pride in being able to explain why you love it.  What is your guilty pleasure? Drop the guilt.  Keep the pleasure.  Especially when it comes to fashion, music, and film. Example from my own life: I love shiny things. Of every variety.  One of the sparkliest, shiniest things I own is a lavender-purple bracelet studded with rhinestones.  I wear the shit out of that bracelet, and it looks damn good.  I love nerdy clothing, and I have one of these fuckers.  No “normal” person owns one of those.  Do I care? No.  I love that damn jacket.  And guess what; it looks amazing, because when you’re doing what you love, that passion radiates from your every pore.  Leak passion everywhere. Get it all over what you love.  Own your happiness.

3. The worst thing you can do when you’re unhappy is stand still.

Feeling down in the dumps? Depressed? Lonely or sad? Move. I don’t care if you don’t feel like it.  I fought my own god damn brain every single day for the whole of last semester, fought tooth and talon to keep moving. Did I “feel like” getting up every morning? HELL FUCKING NO.  Did I anyway? FUCK YES.

This is ESPECIALLY important if you have any kind of tendency to depression or rumination—any kind of tendency to sit and get lost in your own thoughts and insecurities.  We ruminators are like sharks—if we sit still too long, we will sink and suffocate.  Get OUT of your head.  Play an instrument.  Find a new job.  Exercise. Dance.  LARP.  Do something.  Don’t worry too much or sit still too long; this world can’t afford to lose even one of us, for we are the thinkers, the sensitive ones, the artists.

2. You’re yourself, and your self is awesome. Do you know what happened when you were born?

Oh, not much, just a COSMIC SHIFT.

The entire fucking universe aligned itself for you.  The stars slid into place, the galaxies turned into position, every planet set itself along its course, and all the billions of humans in the world ran madly through one another’s lives so that your parents could meet and produce you at the exact second of your birth.  You are the child of the universe and its heir both, and the fire of your life-force is the fire of creation.  Don’t hide or apologize for that fire; wear it proudly.  There is no reason to be ashamed of who you are, and if anyone tells you differently, burn them to the ground.

 

And last but not least:

1. Say what you feel.

Humans are very good at social interaction—but none of them are telepathic.  The most important thing to know about a relationship—any relationship, be it family, friend, academic, workplace, or romance (or all five, bow chicka wow wow)—is that you are responsible for what you do and what you say.   How you feel is independent, and while you should never apologize for how you feel, you should always try to convey how you feel as accurately as possible.  Is your love going “unrequited?” I’ve got news for you; that shit would get a whole lot clearer if you just told them.  Does another person keep saying something that hurts you? Explain why.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself—especially with those close to you.  You should never be afraid of the people you love, and if they love you back, they won’t want you to be.

This goes for everything.  Explain how you feel.  Explain it using that most potent and misunderstood word: “I.”  That “I” will take the edge from your anger and give warmth to your reassurances.   It’s scary as hell to talk about your feelings, but it’s a skill that will serve you well.

There is more I could say, of course.  More I could say about each of those, and more things that I’ve learned.

I’ve grown a lot in the last four years.  But the core of this blog—and the core of myself—remains unchanged.  I am still me, a unique face of the universe playing at an individual life. And I’m having loads of fun.

And this blog is still the site of discourse on biology, psychology, anthropology, Dungeons and Dragons, comedy, and astrophysics.

So ave, lector, and strap in; it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Until next time.

SUP NERDS

I’m not even gonna pretend that I’ve come back permanently for any predetermined length of time.  Just keep checking; I’ll post something at some point in your life. But onward to the point!

My school has an anonymous ‘Confessions’ page.  This is basically what it sounds like.  It’s a Facebook page run by an unknown individual at the college (theories abound, but we won’t investigate them at the moment), with a link to a survey site.  Fill out an anonymous survey and the page admin reads it (anonymously) and posts it on the site without your name ever being involved.  Anyone who sees the page can post on it, write on it, read it, whatever.  Many colleges have this exciting feature.

It’s a shit show.

We can pretend otherwise, I can dress it up with fancy psychological terms, but it’s basically a shit show.  People talk about booze, bowel movements, pet peeves, relationships, and personal problems.  The audience is sympathetic to the first two and the last one.

It interests me.  First because some of the commentary is hilarious, to say nothing of the posts themselves.  The usual anonymous online dickery ensues—people passive-aggressively calling one another out anonymously for being too passive-aggressive, and so forth.

Sometimes, someone will post something that looks serious.  They’ll talk about their self-harm issues, suicidal ideation, PTSD, body image problems, etc.  And by and large the response to these is good—not a lot of people shaming, condemning, hating, lots of people encouraging, offering phone numbers and emails and websites.  My school still seems to have nice people.

The other day I read a post on there.  I don’t remember what it was about—some personal issue.  I was about to join the chorus of positive responses, but I thought to myself, “You know, I don’t know who this is.  I know who it might be, though.  It might be someone I don’t know.  It might be someone I don’t like. It might be one of the people who, were I to meet them, I would strike repeatedly with a blunt object. I don’t know if I want to let this person know I care about them when I don’t know them.”

I then immediately felt uncomfortable.  I wasn’t quite sure why, but I felt repulsed by the thought.  I replied to the post, encouraging, positive—after all, they were going through something rough.  Fast forward a few weeks.

The other day I watched Les Miserables. The film adaptation is a remarkable and striking experience.  It’s intimate in a way a stage production cannot be, and arresting in a way the novel cannot be.  The writers did a remarkable job of fine-tuning the story, and granting it an arc which seems much more plain in the film than it did in the novel.

Les Miserables, to give a quick, bare-boned sketch for those who have not seen it [SPOILERS] is the story of a convict named Jean Valjean.  He is released on parole and commits a minor theft—for which he could be returned to prison for decades.  However, the victim intercedes for him, corroborating his alibi, and enjoins upon him to “become an honest man.” Valjean, his life spared and his moment of wrongdoing revealed, is stricken with shame and uses the stolen goods to become an honest man—a very honest, wealthy man, in fact.  But he is still haunted at every turn by the constable who released him from prison, a man known as Javert.

A man is captured who resembles Valjean, and this hapless lookalike is set to be tried and sentenced in Valjean’s stead.  The disguised convict is transfixed by this moral quandary—does he give himself up, or allow the innocent man to be condemned?

But he does the right thing, regardless.  And this is a theme that repeats throughout the novel—Valjean is faced with a dilemma, to save himself or to help another, and each time he chooses to do good.  And each time it turns out better and better.

This is what we call ‘fiction.’

(if you’re a Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder nerd, keep reading—otherwise, you may want to skip this paragraph; it has a distinctly nerdy flavour)

(then again, if you’re not a nerd, why are you reading this blog?)

The conflict between Valjean and Javert is not one of good vs. evil, morality and immorality—for Valjean and Javert are both potent forces for good in the world (even more so in the novel).  My brother likes to complain that Javert is one of the irritating paladins, the lawman who sticks to the letter of the law and seeks to bring all to salvation through enforcement of his code.  But my response is that Valjean is also a crusader, a paladin, but with his code being one of pure good.  He desires only to help everyone and be as good and honest a man as he can (while protecting his daughter).  And in this clash between Good and Law it is (in the end) the Good that wins out—for Good can adapt and change to whatever form it finds itself in, but when Javert finds himself in a scenario for which no law has been written, he self-destructs in a moment of existential crisis.

AND THE POINT OF THIS LONG DIGRESSION IS

We watch throughout the (film/operetta/novel) as Valjean helps people.  Some of them deserve it.  Some of them don’t.  Some of them wish to do him harm. Some of them want to bang his daughter.  He helps them all indiscriminately, because that is how he rolls.  He doesn’t make judgments about who he helps and who he doesn’t.  Homey don’t play that.

And when I watched Les Miserables the other day, my intuition about that pesky train of thought came clearer.  “I don’t know if I want to let this person know I care about them when I don’t know them. It might be someone I don’t like.”

But it doesn’t matter. There are people I don’t like.  There are people I don’t know.  There are people who I want to strike repeatedly with a spoon.  But they’re people. They’re human, as most people are. The ones that aren’t human (a) kill people and eat them or (b) think they’re a macaque.  Hitler liked to talk to children, hold dinner parties, and dick around with oil paints.  The people I don’t like are people too.  And I don’t dislike people all the way through—how could I?? You can’t dislike everything about a person! We share the same basic, fundamental needs and wants.  That’s how empathy works, understanding how your desires are similar to the desires of others.

In real life, there are people I would throttle with a mink stole or beat with a spoon.

But in real life, if they came to me for help, or told me about a problem, one that was life-threatening and miserable, then no, I would not hit them with a spoon.  I might lecture them, loudly and repeatedly, but I would do it while helping them, while directing them to the nearest counselor or tying on a tourniquet. And a couple of you know that’s true, so don’t scoff at me. Nerd.

No human being deserves absolute condemnation—and that’s why I think this article is amazing. It’s about a revolutionary new approach to school discipline being implemented in Washington—not yelling at troubled children. It sounds so obvious when I sneer at it like that, but GUESS WHAT, our school system today pretty much consists of doing just that. And, funny thing, turns out when you give troubled children a safe, supportive, caring, stable environment, THEY DO PRETTY WELL.  And not just in terms of grades—socially, psychologically, emotionally—across the board, better.  “Problem children” improve, become nicer.  Formerly ‘delinquent’ children, ‘troublemakers,’ stop lashing out.

Prison systems in Norway are the most humane in the world.  Guess where some of the world’s highest rehabilitation rates are for criminals? Did you guess America? Not quite, but thanks for playing—the answer’s NORWAY.

Now, I’m not Jean Valjean.  For one thing, I’m not French.  And I can’t sing.

But what I can do is do good.  And do better.

I’m not proud of the thought that came to me some weeks ago as I sat before an anonymous confession page, but I’m not ashamed of it either.  It led me to a (slightly) deeper understanding of myself, and now I’ve inflicted it upon all you lot as well.

So I suppose the moral of this story, this little blog post about doing-good-no-matter-what, the moral of this story is READ LES MISERABLES.  YES, YOU.  It’s magnificent.

COMING UP NEXT TIME, an EXCITING RANT about why IGNORANCE IS NOT IMMORAL.

LATER NERDS.

I’ve dealt with bullshit in my life.  Mine and other peoples’.  People’s? Whatever.  Brief and overarching examples of such bullshit include trauma, abuse, terror, panic, lies, anger, cruelty, judgment, scorn, intolerance, narcissism, pettiness, and poorly-cooked pizza.

When your bullshit intake is pretty steady on a daily level (read; when you are an adult and/or college student), you become introspective. You tend to walk around a lot listening to ‘Dust In The Wind’ and staring off into space.  You experiment with dangerous things to deal with the bullshit—dangerous things like anger, hate, and condemnation.  Possibly also alcohol and chocolate.  If you’re an artist, you art even more than usual—perhaps you start a novel, or compose music, or both.  You apply yourself vigorously to your work, because work usually doesn’t contain any bullshit.

You feel old.  Older. Ancient, old as the hills, as if you’ve walked the same streets forever.

And, if you’re me, this introspection takes a reflective turn.  You turn to books, to film, to famous figures, for inspiration, comfort, and guidance.  You talk to parents and professors and listen to words from men and women long dead.  You read Aristotle’s friendly books of advice for young men entering adulthood.  You listen to Jung’s discussion of mortality and the human life, watch the keen intelligence in the eyes of Bertrand Russell as he discusses forgiveness and mankind’s future on Earth.  You learn the unpredictability of life not only from your own travails but from the calming voice of Alan Watts, who assures you that all is not as bad as it seems—that the universe has a harmony of its own.

You drop-forge your own spirituality in fire and cold water, in anger and sorrow and hour after hour of worry.

And slowly, it works.

You stop staring at the ceiling for hours every night.  Your dreams cease to be saddening and become bittersweet.

Your music stops being angry.  Stops being sad.  It sounds more right than before, deeper, with anger and sorrow in their rightful places—not dominating, and not absent.  Your characters take on a depth and power that you haven’t known before, and (after hours of exposure to the drama that unfolds in human lives) story developments come easily.  You get better at managing your temper, at making measured judgments, at managing stress, at not falling apart under the weight of your own rumination.

Suddenly, though you haven’t gotten any busier, you have plenty of time.  You start humming happier songs.  You have more patience for everything from schoolwork to nonfunctioning computers to people.

And then, on a quiet afternoon in a nearly-empty study space, you run a search on Martin Luther King Jr., and you read his words.  You get a glimpse of the man behind the rhetoric, and you see the power in them.  It falls into place all at once; Taoism, Nietzsche, psychology black swans, action with intention, cultural relativism, even the Wizard’s oath…and the result is a profound calm, and a renewed vehemence.

I refuse to believe in the worst parts of humanity.   People can be better, though there might not be any one person or thing that changes them.  It might not be me that causes a person’s life to turn around—but I cannot turn my back on the possibility that it might be.  Two quotes by MLK inspired me today.  One of them was this:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

People will be petty, and afraid, and angry—and that includes me, because I can be petty, and nervous, and angry too, just as well as anyone else.  But you can’t meet human failing with more human failing.  You can’t beat intolerance with intolerance.  You can meet cruelty with anger, in the moment.  You can fight abuse fist-to-fist if you have to.  But when it’s done, when the moment ends, then you have to rebuild, and you can’t rebuild with anger.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. ”

Powerful words.

As a society, and as individuals, we can’t be lost in the moment of anger.  Yes, people do awful things.  There should and will be consequences for that.  But we have to step back, and think.  Yes, the murderer is a monster.  But we have to step back, and think, and wonder who made her that way.  Yes, rape is evil, and disgusting, and should never be tolerated among our number.  But we have to step back, and think, and realize that we have a chance to help a victim before he is a victim.  That we have a chance to save the innocent, before they become the guilty.  And that while we can fight day by day, in the end, it will be not the many battles but the one, the only, that changes the course of humanity—and that is the battle of our culture, of our time, of our universe, and our lives.  And in the end, it is the fight of inclusion over intolerance.  It is the fight of self-knowledge over self-denial.  It is the fight of integration over repression. It is the yes of life against the no of time and entropy.  And in the end, it is the fight of love over hate.

So I refuse to believe that people cannot change.  People can be better than this.  The world can be better than this.  Life can be better than this.  And I will fight every day, through spoken and written words, through actions and thoughts, to make it so.  Because that is the only fight worth fighting.

Because in the end, that’s the only fight.  There is no good and evil beyond what we make, beyond what we choose, beyond what we do.

We are Nietzsche’s supermen.  The world is what we make of it, and I, for one, want to make it something better than this.  Because we can be better than this.

The world is full of bad things. But we can make it a little better.  We can always be a little better. Because deontology is not starry-eyed idealism.  A perfect end is not impractical.  Am I an angel? No, not by any means, what I am is something darker. Does that mean I can’t hold myself to that standard? Not in the slightest.  Will we ever achieve a perfect world? A world without murder, fear, rape, hatred? Maybe not.  Does that mean I can’t fight for it?

Hell no.

And besides, I’ve a fondness for impossible causes.

So if I seem unexpectedly nice…I’m just doing my job.  If I call you on hateful rhetoric, I’m just doing my job. And trying to help you do yours.

Because, after all, the basic idea of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics can be condensed into this:

Be the best human being you can be.

That’s my response to your bullshit, life.

Your move, motherf*****.

Image

ALL-PURPOSE* BROADSIDE: Or, HOW ALL HATE SPEECH IS THE SAME.

Dear [person #1].

You are hereby being served notice of the unconstructive nature of your discourse.  What that means in English is that YOU’RE NOT HELPING.  The vitriolic enthusiasm with which you attack [entity] is NOT going to help in fixing [problem].

You are a [self-identification].  You are not alone; there are many who share your belief, who also are [ideological group].  You have a view of the way the world should be, and it is seemingly incomprehensible to you to suggest that another rational being would ever think differently.

But here’s the thing.

If you have a complete, ironclad view of the way the world should work, that dictates what each person needs to have a flourishing and happy life, YOU’RE WRONG.

Because there are BILLIONS of people on [planet].   You are only one of many, the crossroads of unique individual and unique circumstance.

To presume to condemn [ideological group] as a whole based upon your own individual thoughts and desires is WRONG.  Induction: You are failing at it.

There are [quantity greater than zero #1] of individuals who are also [title of member of ideological group].  They live perfectly happy lives, because they function in a way entirely different from you, because there is a very definite degree to which, thanks to culture and individuality, we are not all ‘basically the same.’  Different things are fulfilling to different people, and if you fail to respect that, you are being just as intolerant as the [ideological group] you claim to condemn.

Yes, [ideological group] has its flaws, and like any human organization other than In-N-Out Burger, they are many.  They can be fixed.  And, more fundamentally, [ideological group] is made up of PEOPLE.   People can change, and we tend to believe that people have certain RIGHTS, such as the right to a certain degree of SELF-DETERMINATION.

[ideological group] DOES NOT EXIST FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF DESTROYING ALL THAT IS GOOD ON THIS EARTH.  And to suggest that all those who participate in [ideological group] are ignorant, hateful, brainwashed, or better off dead is abhorrent.

Finally, and in closing, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING.

DON’T MAKE GENERALIZATIONS WHEN YOU SPEAK OF HATE.  Do you know what that leads to? That leads to GENOCIDE AND ANGUISH.  I am not exaggerating.  When you hate blindly, you are blinded.

You are BETTER THAN THIS.  I know this for certain, because you are A HUMAN BEING, and human beings are ALWAYS capable of allowing one another to live peacefully.

You live your life, that’s fine. But don’t assume that the only way to live is YOUR way.   It is HARD to be tolerant—I know.  It’s HARD to let people self-determine, hard to take the SLOW way.  But to fight hate with hate, to condemn all who support [ideological group] alike, to make enemies of people who are PERFECTLY DECENT HUMAN BEINGS, and indeed, some of whom are probably BETTER human beings than you and I—this path is misguided, and beneath you, and I know you can do better; I know you can learn how, and I wish you the best of luck.

If you want to spread the poison of intolerance, and write off any person as a loss based SOLELY on their membership in a group that also contains poor examples, then I’VE GOT BAD NEWS FOR YOU, CUPCAKE, because if that’s how you roll, you’re a HUMAN BEING, and GUESS WHO’S COMMITTED EVERY MAJOR HISTORICAL ATROCITY IN ALL OF HISTORY?

That’s right, you’ve got a bigger category of hatred to work on—because each of us are connected to thousands of others by thousands of similarities, and blind hatred for any one human is blind hatred for HUMANITY.  So rein it in, [equestrian celebrity reference], you’re riding too hard.

But if you want to work with us, with all of us, all the good people on [planet] who want their ideological groups to be better, who hold ourselves and others to a higher standard, who are willing to fight—and to forgive—for the sake of harmony and a flourishing life, then join me, and we’ll learn tolerance together.

Choose well.  Choose as I know you can.   And I, in turn, will forgive your rashness, for I understand where you’re coming from, because I have my own blindness as well. And you, like all the rest of us, are only human.

And you, like all the rest of us, must struggle with that.

*This will serve as a response to anyone condemning a particular group, religion, or behavioral practice, subject to the following constraints:

  • [quantity greater than zero #1] is greater than zero. (example, 1, and not 0)
  • By ‘condemning’ I mean aggressively.  Hell, or even passively.  The casual jokes of annoying atheists.  The bombastic rhetoric of annoying religious figures. The outdated ideas of annoying, sexist political figures.  A #misandry-tagged post that isn’t obviously sarcastic or made by a misguided MRA.
  • [ideological group] is not an organization created and maintained for the sole purpose of oppressing, disenfranchising, repressing, injuring, or otherwise harming anyone. (example, the Grand Old Party, and not the KKK or a similar hate group) Aside from this constraint, [ideological group] can be anything; a political organization, a country, an ethnicity, a gender, a faction in WoW…
  • [person #1] is a person with thoughts and feelings.

             PEACE, NERDS. 

Have you ever had one of those conversations?

…I feel like I should qualify that statement.

First off, have you ever had one of those situations where you used a word, and then someone else used a word, and you get the sense that you’re using the word in completely different ways?  This happens to me a lot, and it is probably somehow related to the fact that I really don’t understand people sometimes.

Like for example the phrase ‘in a sec.’ What do you mean when you say ‘in a sec?’

In a literal sense, the phrase ‘in a sec’ is not very helpful.  It means “in a second,” and very few things that we do in our interactions can be literally spoken of that way—especially with a phrase that takes two seconds to say.

Now, when I say ‘in a sec,’ it means a frame of time less than two minutes.  Because if it’s going to be two minutes, I say ‘two minutes.’  I’m really painfully punctual that way.

But not everyone is.  Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes ‘a sec,’ and it varies from day to day.  So when I say ‘in a sec,’ and then do something ‘in a sec,’ the other person might be surprised at how quickly it was done.  Or at how slowly it was done.

This is a relatively simple concept, the idea of ‘in a sec.’   So imagine how difficult things can be when we talk about a more complex idea such as friendship, virtue, or justice.

In part, this is an issue that plagues philosophy.  It is sometimes very easy to equivocate and shift the meaning of a word accidentally by virtue of your own ideas on the subject, possibly by virtue of your own prejudices on the issue.

So I had one of those situations slowly unfold, where I didn’t know whose definition was what.  So I guessed, which I do often, and I assumed that the more common (and technically literal) definition of the word was at play.  But then confusing things started to happen.  Eventually, the confusion built to a head and I asked for a straightforward definition, and it turned out that it pretty much was my definition, and not necessarily a more widespread one.  So that was awkward.  Hilarity ensued.

I like people.  A lot.  But sometimes they confuse me.  I never really understand what’s going on—if I seem to at any point in time, it’s just because I’m very confident in my ability to continue not understanding with relative success at the act of not dying.  Mostly it’s because I’m still very much figuring out how to reconcile everyone’s definitions.  The best I’ve figured out so far is that it gets better the more you know the person—rather like learning a tiny language.

It’s very interesting to learn people’s languages.  Idiolects, they’re called in linguistic anthropology.  It tells you a lot about people, learning how they use language.   Or at least I think it does.

To be more precise, it tells me a lot, but I don’t know what all that lot means.  It’s rather like being shouted at in Latin by a very angry Arnold Schwarzenegger: You can usually pick out something intelligible here and there, but you’re too overwhelmed to make much use of it.

I have noticed that I tend to be more spare with universal emotional state descriptors—although that has started to loosen of late.  For example, there was a long stage where I didn’t use “love” outside of a romantic context, because any other use simply didn’t mesh with my views.  Now, the idiolects of other people and my own experiences have morphed my definitions, and the word ‘love’ comes into play a great deal more in everyday speech—and a good deal less in the context of a relationship.

I rather suspect everyone finds it a scary word, and perhaps that’s why it’s so comforting to use it so widely—because to use it for things like pizza and dogs dampens it, spreads it out, dilutes the swift, bright sting of it.  Movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs The World give us surrogate code phrases we can use (“I’m in lesbians with you!”), to avoid having to hurl love out into the air.  It’s a heavy word, laden with history.

And on an unrelated note, emotions confuse the hell out of me.  The constant fluctuation between mood states, the random-ass things that set them off—I don’t even know sometimes.  You can carry something for weeks, haul it along with the intention of laying it out at the perfect time, and it feels heavy and granite-solid and enduring, and then you lay it down in all its gravity and the Sisyphean burden you’ve carried completely dissolves, leaving you completely free and wondering why it weighed so heavily on you in the first place.   It’s a fickle bastard.

Coming off of a tangentially related note to the last, hi.  If this is the first time you’re reading my blog, welcome.  This is my blog.  On it I write things, things which are usually related to anthropology, or to philosophy, or to psychology.  Because I love all those things.   Sometimes, if you are an important part of my life, you will recognize in my writing things which have happened to me.

Just kidding—you’re all important parts of my life.

Well, except you.

I’M JOKING.  Moving on.

SPEAKING OF PYSCHOLOGY, I love using psychological disorders to define characters.  Diagnosis with a personality disorder or a psychological disorder has many negative social and personal effects, which I have discussed previously.  These labels are incredibly weighty and, like every other label, they clamp down hard on a person’s sense of self, changing their identity for good or for ill (usually ill).

But when I’m making a character, I harness that.  Because interesting people are, more often than not, somehow unhinged.  And so when I want a character that interests me, such as one of the three that appear occasionally in all of my stories, I build their personality, choose their history—and slam a disorder down on top of that to define what makes them unique.  It’s not a particularly elegant or even necessarily a politically correct way to build a character, but it works for me.

Personality disorders in particular are sticky things for me.  I wish people would call them personality types, because they’re not really disorders until they become dysfunctional.  But when they do become dysfunctional, hoo boy.  Damn are they dysfunctional.

I built a character a few months ago for a story I still haven’t written yet.

Well, technically I already had built the character.  He’s an old character of mine.  We’ll call him Tor for the purpose of this blog, but he’d probably hate that.  His first appearance was when he was in his old age—I was building him here for a story about his teenage years. So I already knew him well, but I wanted a way to describe him—because Tor is never very involved.  He has his friends and he has his goals, but he has few of both, and we rarely see an emotive side to him.  And I wanted a phrase to stand in for his behavior, for that rich, intricate inner life that drives him and the cold, inexplicable air that he gives off.    Because I’m lazy and I don’t want to type all of that each time.

So I gave him a schizoid personality type.

Since he wasn’t entirely dysfunctional, it isn’t technically a disorder, but it did provide a conflict that helped develop the character and drive his actions—namely, the balance that he has to strike between his own enjoyment of solitude and the social pressure to spend time with people.  It’s a story that you might be tempted characterize as sad, because in the end Tor is profoundly, completely alone.

But it’s not sad.  He still has his connection to the world, in the end, still walks through it, though he doesn’t interact with it.  It doesn’t trouble him, because although I write his dialogue, Tor and I are not the same person.  We’re built differently, geared to different things.  He doesn’t get lonely as quickly as you or I might, and when he does, it takes very little to comfort him—a spider, a bird, a quick word to a friend.

It makes me wonder sometimes, about characters, and about personality.  It makes me marvel at the differences between people, because schizoid personality disorder is a real thing.  And possibly something that you could diagnose Sherlock with.  Perhaps I’ll make a post about it later. =

To clarify; I’m not saying that you can define a person through a single label.

But what I am saying is that when I try to define a character,when I am literally building a person, it often helps immensely if I can put words down to describe their personality.  And psychology, anthropology, and philosophy give me the tools to do so.

So hey, internet.  I’m back.

I’ve come out of a rough patch recently.

And by recently I mean “this afternoon, at 2:57 PM, while standing in a cluttered dorm room and staring out a window.”   It was pretty bad while it lasted—lots of brooding and yearning and writing bad poetry and listening to Linkin Park, but I kept my chin up, used the positive explanatory style, fought the urge to attribute everyone’s actions to malice and neglect, surrounded myself with wonderful people and gave myself up to my work and my community.  I tried to walk the line between being honest with feelings and not whining about everything.  I failed a few times, in both directions.  But now a lot of the things that have held me down have just…evaporated.

I’m free.

Free to move in any direction, unfettered.  And I don’t yet know where that will take me, but I have some ideas.  And of course I have some hopes and dreams, because I always have hopes and dreams.  So as this semester winds to an end, I can promise only three things:

One: I’ll keep blogging.  You’ll see things pop up here, at least twice a month (every other Friday), hopefully more often than that.

Two: More funny things will come.  I haven’t written a purely ridiculous post in a while, and that needs to change.

And three: I’m still following my dreams, fighting my fight, standing for what I believe.  I lose sometimes, I get lost sometimes, I am confused always, but I am always moving forward.  And I can promise you that that won’t stop, internet.

So join me again, if you will.  Let’s move forward and see what the future has in store for us.

Ave, lector.

What does it mean to know somebody?

How well can you know somebody?

No, seriously, think about it.  How well do you know everyone in your life?  Think of the person you consider your best friend.  Or people, if you’re one of those wierdos who has more than one best friend.

What’s their favorite color?  What was their fondest childhood memory? What were their first words?  What do they think about the fact that blue is a more soothing color than red?  Do they care about golf? Does anyone? How many instruments can they play?  Would they save a bug if they saw it drowning in a puddle?  What do they think about when they’re putting on their socks?

The point isn’t really whether or not you can answer any of the above questions or even all of them.  The point isn’t raw informative content—that’s something we get far too much of as it is in our society.

The point is, no matter whether or not you can answer the above questions, there are always more informational questions that can be asked.  Even if you spend every day with a person who continually talks about themselves, to really, completely ‘know’ somebody in an empirical sense, you would have to rehash every minute of their existence with them—which would be impossible, because only about five people in the world can remember every minute of their existence.

So we can’t really know anyone, not on a purely informational level.  Does that stop us from assuming we do? Not in the slightest.  Think about the people in your social circle.  If you’re like me, your social circle trades stories and jokes about one another, tell stories of highly complex behaviors that usually surprise no one.  If we can’t know people, speaking from the point of view of raw information, then how can we talk about them with such confidence?

One answer is in face or persona.  We all present a certain fragment of our self to the world, intentionally or not.  We give certain impressions, say things that might not perfectly mesh up with our beliefs.  We create a rapid sketch of ourselves in any social interaction, a rough web of details—what we look like, how we feel today, how we talk and the way we respond to people.  But these sketches don’t exist in a vacuum.

From the very first instant of your interaction with a person, you create your own sketch based on your impressions of them.  What they’re wearing.  What they look like.  How they talk.  How they carry themselves.  How easily they express emotional states, and how quickly they pick up on yours.  All of these details that you don’t even consciously process go into your first impression.  A few are rejected and some are confirmed in the second impression.  And though you may not interact much with the person after that, when you think about them or talk about them you are making judgments based (in part) upon the impression of them that you have both constructed.

Does this mean that we are eternally alone, wandering a cold empty void speaking to figments of our imagination, shadows of strangers that we can never know?

Fortunately not.

Because regardless of how well you know a person, unless you are a sociopath or otherwise devoid of empathy you are capable of forging an emotional connection with someone.

What does that mean?  ‘Emotional connection’ is a phrase lots of people throw around.  But what does it really signify? Can I even create a description of an emotional connection?

Well, I’m gonna try.

To make an emotional connection with a person means, among other things, that you give them your undivided attention.  Now, this is certainly not the only thing you have to do, but it is a key point.  Put down the cell phone, stop swordfighting, close the browser, whatever, and make sure they know that they are the center of your focus.  There will be a notable shift in the tone of the conversation when you engage with someone in this way—when you lean forward and listen intently without distraction.  Don’t stare glassy-eyed at them—that becomes creepy after a while.  And don’t just look at them and zone out—people can usually tell when that happens, even if it’s only on an unconscious level.

Pretend they’re a very interesting television show, and you’re trying to watch it on a small laptop, so you have to lean in to hear the sound.

All right, now that you’re only paying attention to them, observe them.  Not in a creepy way.  Stop it.  What is their facial expression?  How are they holding themselves?  How energetic do they seem to be?  Don’t bother trying to make judgments or interpretations of these things at first.  Just observe them.  The ability to interpret them will come with practice.  Or that’s what I hear, anyway.  I’m still waiting, myself.

Listen to what they’re saying.  What’s the informative content of the sentence? How are they expressing that information? Are there any oddities in their discourse?  Again, don’t try to judge, just listen, and I mean really listen.

And most importantly, don’t think about any of this.  These are guidelines to get you into an emotional connection, a process that should take about as long as it takes you to look up.  Once that conversation starts, throw all of this shit out the window and just be there.  Listen to them.  Ask them how they’re feeling.  Presumably you have an interest in them as a person, so learn about them as a person.

Get to know everyone all over again every day, because no matter how well you know them, there’s always something more.  

SUP INTERNET

Sometimes I really don’t understand people.

SO I’M GOING TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT BEING NORMAL TODAY

We’ll start with empathy.

Or, to go etymologically:

Einfühlungsvermögen.

 [I love German words]

Wikipedia tells us that Empathy is the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient or semi-sentient (in fiction writing) being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel COMPASSION.

So how do you EMPATHIZE?

Well, one theory connects empathy to MIRROR NEURONS.  Mirror neurons, as many of you may know (and some of you may not) are part of the brain.  As their name might suggest, they are involved in neurological processes.

SPECIFICALLY, mirror neurons fire when we perform an action AND when we see someone else perform the same action.  The mirror neurons in our brain fire when we open a door and when we see someone else open a door, when we watch someone do a parkour vault and then when we do a parkour vault.

We can take this in a very interesting direction and explore the mirror neuron as a subjective projection of the self into objective reality but I DON’T THINK WE REALLY NEED TO DO THAT RIGHT NOW.

No, what I think is in ALARMINGLY short supply nowadays is the ability to be A DECENT HUMAN BEING.

Now OBVIOUSLY my blog post is not targeted specifically at anyone (a) because I DON’T DO THAT because it’s a GENERALLY SHITTY THING TO DO and (b) because I don’t really think that most of the people who are likely to read this aren’t decent human beings (NAMELY ALL MY FRIENDS BECAUSE I KNOW YOU’RE ALL AWESOME).  BUT IT’S NICE TO HAVE REMINDERS ONCE IN A WHILE, ISN’T IT?

SO what is the first part of being a decent human being?

IN MY MIND it is NOT EMPATHY, but I’ve already started talking about empathy so we’ll go through that first.

So what is EMPATHY really? I feel as though I’ve talked about this before, but it is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  To try to put yourself in their place and understand where they’re coming from.  Some people can’t do this, or don’t do this, which always confuses me in the same way that people would confuse me if they walked around with their nose plugged all the time.

SO let’s get all ANALYTICAL PHILOSOPHY UP IN THIS and create a MODEL that MAY BEAR NO RESEMBLANCE TO REALITY.

Let’s imagine a man named BOB.

NOW, BOB has a friend named TED.  And TED has a cat.

BOB really likes to shoot things.  Especially living things.  He’s kinda crazy.  At this point it’s only a matter of time before he snaps and does something that I could make a really offensive joke about but won’t, because I’m a very good person and I don’t do that.

Now, TED, who is a very trusting and innocent soul, asks BOB to catsit for him.

So BOB does.

Now, it’s about six hours in and BOB is bored. He’s watched Snatch, Pulp Fiction, and Boondock Saints and now he’s all out of DVDs.  So he starts thinking about shooting Ted’s cat.

NOW IS WHEN EMPATHY KICKS IN.

If Bob uses his sense of empathy, his ability to understand where other people were coming from, he would imagine what it would be like to care for a small, furry animal and love it unconditionally. He would realize the sense of attachment that Ted must have, and understand the feeling of heartbreak that would come if anything were to happen to the little kitty.

LUCKILY FOR BOB, Bob is a sociopath, an individual DEFINITIONALLY INCAPABLE OF EMPATHY, so he shoots the cat and goes home to watch Tron.

…well.  That didn’t turn out to be quite so lucid of an explanation as I had hoped.  We’ll try again later.

IN THE MEANTIME

I mentioned that EMPATHY is not necessarily top of my list on HOW TO BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING.  It is however arguably impossible to disconnect from the quality that IS on the top of my list, which is, namely, and I quote, THE ABILITY TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

Let me flesh that one out a bit.  What do I mean by this? Well, I could go to Plato/Socrates and say JUSTICE IS EVERYONE MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS but I don’t really like agreeing with Plato (it makes me feel a bit funny inside) and Socrates doesn’t always convince me as much as he does Glaucon.

FIRST AND FOREMOST is the ability to RESPECT LIMITS.  Everyone has limits.  Some people don’t like to be hugged.  Some people don’t like to be bothered during certain hours.  Some people don’t like to be SHOT IN THE FACE.  To each their own.  The ability to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS is the ability to UNDERSTAND the relativist nature of personal limits.

WHICH IN ENGLISH MEANS the ability to RECOGNIZE that there is no UNIVERSAL STANDARD for PERSONAL DECISIONS.

Which basically means that if someone doesn’t want to high-five you, it doesn’t matter if you’re THE GODDAM POPE, you still have no right to claim that they are in the WRONG.

Because this is a fundamental thing that I believe about BAD SHIT that happens to PEOPLE.

When someone SHOOTS YOU IN THE FOOT, it’s bad because BULLETS HURT.  But would we think anything was wrong if you ASKED someone to shoot you in the foot and they complied? Well, yes, we would, because WHO THE HELL GETS WILLINGLY SHOT IN THE FOOT, but we wouldn’t think that the shooter was necessarily morally culpable.

NOW OF COURSE YOU CAN MAKE BAD personal decisions.  People do it ALL THE GODDAM TIME, and it’s INFURIATING.  BUT, there’s not really anything you can DO about that, IS THERE?

If it’s a BAD ENOUGH decision, SOCIETY will provide the backlash and the countermanding force.  For EXAMPLE, the decision to stay up until FIVE drinking shots of vodka with peanut butter ice cubes may have been a POOR ONE, but the REAL punishment for that decision is not going to be provided by a friend who gives the drinker a tongue-lashing, it’s going to be provided by the BOSS or TEACHER who waited for them for SIX HOURS and didn’t get the REPORT they wanted.

THIS ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO RELATIONSHIPS, BY THE WAY.

Because a relationship is FUNDAMENTALLY about TWO PEOPLE who RELATE to one another.  A relationship can be INDEPENDENT of the two people in a certain emotional way, but it is nonetheless INEXTRICABLY LINKED to their CONTINUING DECISIONS.

WHICH MEANS of course that a RELATIONSHIP is always subject to personal decisions, because as soon as one individual makes the decision to NO LONGER RELATE TO THE OTHER PERSON, it is then NOT A RELATIONSHIP, somewhat by DEFINITION.

SO A VERY BASIC POINT, and one I follow perhaps too well sometimes, is RESPECT PEOPLE’S PERSONAL SPACE, and that means IN ALL CONTEXTS.  ALL OF THEM.

NOW we can return to EMPATHY.  While I will concede it is POSSIBLE to respect someone’s personal limits without empathy (for example, the majority of sociopaths can generally control themselves as long as it is made clear that a limit is a rule; sociopaths do very well with understanding and following rules), I will say that once you have empathy you are much, much, much more likely to respect a person’s limits.

WHICH, let me POINT OUT, is really NOT EVER A HARD THING.

Because EITHER it’s someone you REALLY DISLIKE even when you CAN understand their point of view and therefore you don’t actually NEED to worry about INFRINGING ON THEIR PERSONAL SPACE EXCEPT WITH A KNIFE because YOU CAN’T STAND THEM (in which case just don’t deal with that) OR it’s someone you’re ACTUALLY QUITE FOND OF in which case YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO EMPATHIZE WITH THEM, in which case you should WANT THE BEST FOR THEM AND NOT BE ALL WEIRD ABOUT IT.  Both of which should be relatively simple cognitions.

Both of those points, by the way, are things that I have experienced.  The complete profound disgust with another human being and the “OH GOD DON’T BE CREEPY” sense of self-control and extreme respect for other people’s personal space.

SO YES, I suppose in a way I am setting myself up to be a good person by my own definition.  Although you will note that I only set the bar at “decent human being,” so I hope I’m not making too bold a claim.

I’m not sure how that reflects upon my blog post, although I suppose the PROOF IS IN THE PREMISES, insofar as if I can be a good person, then what I say might be slightly true.

THIS POST by the way ushers in a WHOLE NEW AGE OF ME, wherein I tell you that I’ve got ANOTHER NAME FOR YOU.

Whereas previously IN THIS BLOG I referred to myself as TOR for reasons that were EXTREMELY NERDY and have to do with the massive unpublished novel that I’ve posted on DeviantArt for lack of a better thing to do with my time (It’s at ddllives.deviantart.com if you’re bored and have nothing better to do, which is extremely unlikely as there are many things that are better than my writing including STABBING YOURSELF IN THE EYES WITH A PENCIL), I have decided HENCEFORTH to take ONE OF THE MORE COMMON NAMES IN THE UNITED STATES and also the name of the PATRON ANGEL of SOLDIERS, DOCTORS, and WARRIORS, which I rather like, myself.

So yeah, my name’s MICHAEL now.  If you call me “Mike” I WILL END YOU. 

Greetings, earth creatures.

I’ll be posting AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK HERE, which is to say AT LEAST EVERY FRIDAY, but I will also NO LONGER REFRAIN MYSELF from posting something on a DAY THAT IS NOT FRIDAY.

YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO PREDICT WHAT WILL HAPPEN AROUND HERE.

VERY ODD

COMING UP NEXT ON JUNGWILDEANDFREE

EITHER

I YELL AT ATHEISTS UNTIL THEY GET ANGRY

OR

I RANT ABOUT HOW TO BE HAPPY ALL THE GODDAMN TIME.