Enlightened Conflict

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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“As with events, so it is with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water.”

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

If the whole of history is in one man, it is all explained from individual experience.”

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

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So.

 

life explained tat awkward moment birth deathWe LOVE using the past to try and explain shit. Past people, past events, past words and past … well … everything.

When we are faced with something new, or someone new, we immediately start sifting through the scrap heap of the past to start creating some semblance of a jig saw puzzle to explain what we are facing.

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

The biggest is that scraps are scraps. Oh. And the scraps used to reside in a completely different context <which is impossible to recreate>.

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

The problem is that in doing so we elect to not judge the present on the merits of the present. We decline to judge a person as they are, the circumstances as they are and the decisions on the merits of what it is. We do this with everyone and everything … how money is spent, decisions we need to make, new people we have met and even leaders. We do it all partially well intended <we want to make sure we make a fair assessment of hat we are seeing & hearing> and partially because simply examining something and stating “this is good” or “this is bad” <or acceptable or unacceptable> seems … well … flimsy.

 

Comparisons tend to make things look more solid.  And, yet, we tend to absolutely suck at creating the proper comparisons.

 

And, that happens for a variety of reasons – also some well-intended and some not so well intended.

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

As Emerson once wrote: “our being is descending into us from know not whence.” And we struggle with that truth. It makes us uncomfortable … uhm … no … REALLY uncomfortable.

If we don’t know where things descend from then we begin to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find comparisons to do so. this all comes at the expense of judging what is, the beings and such, on the merits of what exists. And this is where the shit hits the fan. We either dip into our own memories or a slew of people start telling us what memories to take a look at <the latter is part of the not so well intended>.

 

Well.

 

Here is an unfortunate fact … our memories, which is how we tend to judge and create mental comparisons, are constructive and reconstructive

 

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“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device.

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true.

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people. “

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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“You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.”

 

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(via 1112pm)

 

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We desperately want to define things through comparison and continuously ask the universe for signs to show us what we want.

 

We desperately do so because in the absence of some comparison we would then have to judge what is on the merits of what exists — the good, the bad and the indifferent .

 

That doesn’t mean a shitload of people around you aren’t gonna try and affect how you will build your comparisons and encourage you to compare in some fairly creative <sometimes absurd> ways.

 

What do I mean?

 

I go back to the psychologist Ebbinghaus who studied memory construction <his published essay Über das Gedächtness in 1885> where he realized that memory and recall of continuous passages of prose or verse would be affected differentially by people’s experiences and prior knowledge.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

What that actually means is that the memory you tap into to create the my-worst-enemy-is-my-memory-projectcomparisons you seek are slightly mangled by yourself <in how you remember it> and can be manipulated by devious not so well intended people around you.

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

  • Reconstruction is filling in “missing details” on the basis of logic, assumptions, what “must have been the case”

 

  • More common reasons for forgetting: Lack appropriate retrieval cue = something you attach to a memory, can use to recover it>

 

  • Reliable retrieval cues are key to access <and multiple retrieval cues are best>

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our own eyes.

But, not surprisingly, this is the exact same issue new ideas, “white space” theories, fresh thinking, true <not made up> disruptive people & things face.

 

All tat said. I will point out that something doesn’t have to be truly new to face false comparison challenges … it can simply be a new person in an existing role or a common problem or question just in a different time.

 

Suffice it to say anything new, or any change, is being asked to be defined by the past. And there will never be a lack of people stepping up and suggesting they can define something through a variety of comparisons <many of which you spend more time trying to fend off than is worth the time>.

explain with rational mind

This is a mistake. This is a fundamental error we make. It assumes what is can somehow be extrapolated by something by what was <the past>. In reality, as I have noted numerous times, I cannot exactly extrapolate the past because I cannot exactly replicate the past … which means <in harsh terms> there is nothing there and nothing from nothing is … uhm … nothing.

Yeah.

Most comparisons end up meaning nothing <although they look like something>.

Yeah.

This means most comparisons we create are just plain and simple false comparisons.

 

Without trying to be flippant with regard to what I believe is a fairly standard operating procedure for people … we need to stop. Stop false comparisons.

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

Comparisons normalize that which should not be normalized … just as comparisons can de-normalize that which should be normalized.

False comparisons wielded by the devious can construct almost any “normal” you could desire <even if it is hollow & not really normal>.

 

Anyway.

 

In today’s world there does seem like there is a lot of crazy shit happening. And in our desire to veer away from the “crazy shit” feeling we seek some comparisons to normalize the situation <thereby calming the ‘crazy shit feeling>.

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

<a> Finding comparisons, if done well, you can actually be convinced there really isn’t crazy shit happening even though there is truly some crazy shit easter crazy kidshappening.

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

<b> if there is truly some crazy shit happening there will be no shortage of people ponying up false comparisons trying to convince you that there is no crazy shit happening <and some of them will be quite effective>.

 

The only reason I point out the warning is that there really is some crazy shit happening and we need to stop finding comparisons to make today, and some people, look a little less crazy than it really is.

 

There you go.

 

I will end where I began … “Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things <and people>.”

We should invest the energy judging what is, people, ideas and things, based on their present merits not some false comparisons from the past.

 

curiosity’s tempting thorn

March 30th, 2017

rose in wind

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she repeatedly pricked

her curious finger

on the same tempting thorn.

 

Noor Shirazie

 

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“Because sometimes you have to do something bad to do something good.”

 

Oscar Wilde

 

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Curiosity can be a cruel friend on occasion.

 

Ok.

 

I imagine I could say that being curious is a cruel gift.

 

The curious are always on a trajectory of … well … more.  It is difficult to ever attain “enough” if you are curious.

cruelty of curiosity

I share this graph I drew because most curious people do not always assess any consequential cost-benefit analysis when embracing this seemingly infinite abyss <or, more positively, a well> of curiosity.

 

It doesn’t really matter if your curiosity drags you down the more shallow slope of surface breadth of tantalizing “one learning begets a path to another learning” or the more focused depth of “how much can I learn about this” … the temptation of curiosity is more often cruel than it is pleasant.

 

This means curiosity goes where it may … even if the outcome is harmful, useless or endless.

This means the curious, in a cruel twist of fate, are often treated as ‘ignorant’ of what is important with regard to using their time.

 

Even with all that cruelty … suffice it to say people, in general, have a tendency to go above and beyond but the curious are almost addicted to the above & beyond.

 

This seemingly instinctual urge to gain information we don’t really need is extraneous — and at its most extreme, dangerous.

 

Dangerous?

Well … yeah.

 

why are you keeping curiosity locked door life peopleIf you think about it having an overactive curiosity muscle is almost counter intuitive to evolutionary theory, i.e., the most curious among us should’ve been killed off pretty quickly.

 

And, yet, curiosity has survived, people have survived and the undeniable drive to actively pursue “above & beyond’ survives.

 

That doesn’t mean it is any less cruel … just that it permits survival.

 

The other cruel aspect of curiosity is its uncomfortably close relationship with ignorance. Theoretically curiosity exists to remove ignorance.

Far be it from me to point out that if your curiosity is never completely sated then ignorance remains, exists and is most likely bigger than ever before.

 

Oh.

I did point that out.

Cruelty … plain cruelty.

 

I imagine someone could embrace ignorance and avoid the cruel aspects of curiosity although I would suggest a closed mind actually expands ignorance. And as ignorance expands … within that growing emptiness … I would imagine at some point someone is going to be tempted to know what lightning was, what the stars were, how something can be done better, done faster or just done, or even why someone got sick and someone got better … or whatever temptation may arise within ignorance?

 

Temptation is temptation.

 

Ah.

 

The thorns of curiosity.

 

The cruelty of curiosity has never stopped the curious even despite the fact that most of the curious are not particularly good at assessing long term consequences nor are they particularly good at assessing the cost/benefit analysis.

 

In July 2016 The Scientific American magazine published an article called — Curiosity Is Not Intrinsically Good <The human drive to resolve uncertainty is so strong that people will look for answers even when it’s obvious those answers will be painful>.

 

Look.

 

Curiosity may be cruel. Curious people may suck at cost benefit analysis, assessing consequences of their curious time investment and gathering useful information versus useless information … but sometimes you have to do priorty people addicts curious businesssomething bad to do something good.

 

As with everything else in Life … the best of the curious learn to manage their addiction. They learn to balance the depth versus the breadth, the time invested versus the return on their investment and while they know that their curiosity can be cruel at times … they just learn to carry some band aids for the times they prick their fingers on the inevitable thorns.

 

I still believe we, as a society, would be a much healthier society if we handed out band aids and encouraged more curiosity rather than curb curiosity by suggesting it is most useful to ‘the dreamers.’  In fact … back in July 2010 I even suggested a “National Program to Support Childhood Curiosity” directed toward kids <with Curiosity Fulfillment teachers>. I still believe this would be a better initiative than most of the more focused, but misguided, initiatives it seems like we craft for our children these days.

 

Regardless. Curiosity can be a cruel gift … but a gift nonetheless.

 

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“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”

 

Isaac Newton

 

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Enlightened Conflict