One cognitive bias we don't pay enough attention to is "polarized thinking." It drives us to think of things in all-or-nothing terms. It can affect our thoughts in more ways than I've realized.
- Seeing the pandemic as all-encompassing or completely over.
- If folks of the opposite sex aren't drooling over us, they find us repulsive.
- Family and friends either love us or are out to destroy our lives.
- We exercise ourselves to death or don't bother leaving the couch.
"There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking."
~ Alfred Korzybski pic.twitter.com/y2Vuq4EWLC— Anime Quote Image Bot (@AnimeQuoteImage) May 6, 2021
Accepting things in the middle area is tougher. It's less dramatic and more drawn out. It's less exciting and more complicated. But more often than not, and statistically speaking, the truth is in the in-between.
The hard part is those rare cases when the truth is extreme. It's rare, but it happens. If I meet someone claiming that, I'm asking for plenty of solid evidence. Either that or a pair of headphones.
As I try to finally finish "Last Night I Sang to the Monster," one quote jumped out at me.
“I have a new theory", he said, "and the theory is this: if I develop a great capacity for feeling pain, then I am also developing a great capacity for feeling happiness.”
If this is true, then someone without little capacity for pain also has little capacity for happiness.
This doesn't mean we have to seek out pain if we're not happy. We all already have pain somewhere in us. It's a matter of finding ways to feel our pain that won't tear us apart but hollows us out. Once it's gone, we have more room for joy.
So I ask, what pain do you have for that? That hollows you out without breaking you apart and letting the joy leak out?
The pandemic has taught me many things, most of them infuriating or depressing. But with all the extra time inside my apartment, and my own head, I've picked up two good lessons.
- Reflecting on the past is a great way to learn lessons and not repeat mistakes.
- Wallowing in the past is a great way to forget lessons and regret mistakes.
At some point, I need to pull myself out from the past and take some steps forward. Even if that's as simple as exhausting my body until I have no energy left to think about the past.
My boxing workouts and outdoor runs are the main reason I haven't yet collapsed into myself like a quarantined neutron star.
A favorite theory of mine is how dreams are a glimpse into our collective unconsciousness. But another one I like is that dreams let us get glimpses of some of the infinite multiverses out there. I don't know how credible the multiverse theory is, but I love this idea of it.
Let's say someone dreamt about giant Five Nights at Freddy's robots destroying civilization. Then the wizarding and human worlds came together to stop them and rebuild. That story doesn't end after someone wakes up. Somewhere in the vast cosmos, it's still happening and could be their "normal."
Dreams would let us experience every possible "what if" scenario. We'd wake up and know they're more than hypotheticals or random imaginings. They'd be real stories shared across impossible boundaries. Someone out there could have even dreamt of our universe and our own lives. One can only guess what they thought after they woke up.
I hope my future dreams let me revisit some of these universes. I'll sleep and see wizards and mechanics dissecting a massive Freddy Fazbear animatronic. As they do, small Bidybabs stalk them from the darkness and waiting to strike. If I'm lucky, I won't wake up until I see what happens next.
Even after we declare this pandemic "over," I plan to wear a mask for the foreseeable future. I have many reasons for this:
- Ending a pandemic takes concentrated, collective action. I don't trust America to ever fully deliver on this.
- It calms my paranoid side. This includes COVID paranoia, judgmental paranoia, facial recognition paranoia, and indirect mind-reading paranoia.
- Does my continued mask-wearing annoy you? You're likely one of the folks who refused to wear masks from the start for petty political reasons. Pissing you off is a pleasant bonus.
- It's made my seasonal allergies more bearable.
- I can mutter to myself or lip-sync music without worry.
- I accept that, at one point, it's a disconnected behavior that only makes me feel safer. But it's a better choice than binge-drinking or pot smoking.
- Even after all this, they still make me feel kinda cool and mysterious. I want to savor that as long as possible.
Is the butt part of the legs?
My first answer was "no." However, it turns out the butt is a bunch of muscles that connect your legs and back together. So it technically is both part of the legs and the back.
So not only is the butt part of the legs, it is even more than that. It did not just meet, but exceeded my expectations! All butts truly are fantastic.
I'm still angry at everyone keeping us in this pandemic. Folks who are going to spring break parties, lots of indoor dining, and/or not getting vaccinated. Folks who are so desperate to return to normal, it pushes us further from it.
But I can also understand some of the feelings behind that. The frustration, depression, and isolation that drives this pandemic fatigue. Part of me knows public health, and my personal health, are what matter most. Another part has felt so scared and isolated for so long, it's hard to keep caring at all.
All I can keep doing is exercise, work, write, and whatever else until I run out of energy for fear and worry.
I was reading Shutter Island (yes, of course, it was a book first) and read an exchange that wasn't in the movie. U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels asks how the missing patient, Rachel Solando, could be so deluded. She somehow believes she's living in her home instead of a mental hospital.
The doctor says her subconscious drowns her conscious mind in lies. Doctors are postal workers, her cell is her bedroom under renovation, and the like. The lies grow and evolve until her mind has no energy to refute them, and they become her reality.
The idea is to obfuscate. Confuse the listener until they believe out of exhaustion more than any sense of truth. Now consider those lies being told to yourself.
It's the same principle behind political firehousing, a big propaganda trick in Russia and the United States. When our own minds are behind this, it's a lot harder to catch. And that flood of lies may focus on one topic, not the whole world, making them even tougher to realize.
When our own subconscious is the culprit, how could we ever figure it out ourselves? How could we sort through this self-imposed chaos and rediscover the truth?
The fact I could be doing this, at any point of any day, and never realize it, keeps me up at night. Our minds give us so much, take away so much, and we have almost no say in both cases. It's also the only reason we can ponder this contradiction at all.
I'm not sure what to think about what lets us think. But it makes me feel pretty fragile.
I'm still cynical about escaping this pandemic. I'm anxious about variants winning the race against vaccines, states re-opening too early, and younger people being reckless in large crowds. This is the country talking about entering a "fourth wave." In reality, we're still in a fluctuating first wave.
But after getting my first vaccine dose, I'm feeling a little better. Amid all the bad news out of my control, I've got some good news in my control. After a whole year of this, each bit of good helps.
I need to get better at editing down my writing and getting to the point.
I'm off to a good start.
I've noticed Connecticut may soon rely more on legalizing weed and online gambling to fund the budget.
Imagine if you're a landlord with a bunch of tenants. The building needs some remodeling and maintenance, and you all want it done. But they decide to fund it by encouraging some to get high all day, and others to wager hundreds on if a stranger can throw a ball through a hoop.
I'm not saying they shouldn't allow either of those things. But when we as a major funding source for larger community needs? They may be the wrong behaviors to encourage for "the public good."
Except for getting high during the pandemic. Keeping people indoors, happy and stoned all day, is now a public service. They are the true heroes.
For a while, I was on a mad search for visual novels to pass time in quarantine. I spent hours parsing reviews, play length, graphics, and most of all, cost. It was a worthy yet stressful quest, as I had to fill my deep craving for great characters and storytelling.
This went on for about two weeks. Then I saw my app for checking out digital library books and realized the search was pointless. Visual novels are great, but library books are better in almost every way.
- They download much faster.
- There are many, many, many more choices. I'd say too many, but there's no such thing.
- They get returned after two weeks, so I don't need to worry about device memory.
- I don't worry about lackluster graphics, since I can imagine my own.
- It's all about the story and nothing else. Wait...that explains why they're not visual novels, only "novels!"
- Most important, they're free. Even if I have to buy the book, it's much cheaper than a new game.
This isn't to say I'm not playing any visual novels anymore. Robotics;Notes is still waiting, and Gnosia was fabulous even before I fell in love with Setsu. But my non-visual novel reading has outpaced my gaming by a lot this year.
I still have one burning question. If I read a novel and imagine it as a visual novel in my head, which type of media am I truly consuming?
I didn't want to own a business until I learned about bookstore bars. It is now my new dream.
One idea I have is a rotating book and drink special. You get a discounted drink if you read them with a certain book. But the drinks and books in these specials rotate every day. This encourages people to try new things on both fronts!
One day you'll want a discounted red wine sangria - but it comes with a copy of "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind." Or you're curious about "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle - but you're also trying a Kentucky Mule for the first time. The possibilities make my head spin, as if I just drank a rum and coke with a book from the "Illuminae" series.
New Haven has many book cafes, but no book bars, and I am ashamed. We can be the change we wish to see in the world! Especially if that change is creating more drunk arguments about why the Big Little Lies book is better than the HBO series.
And before you ask, there will be no non-alcoholic options. Take that crap over to Barnes and Noble.
Is there an official job title for people who make bad things sounds good, and vice versa? For example:
- Naming a bill ramping up government surveillance on its own citizens the "Patriot Act."
- Labelling states that broke up labor unions as "Right to Work." The remaining states "Forced Unionization" states.
- Saying people who face consequences are mere "victims of snowflake cancel culture."
- Calling a health care bill without even a public option the "Affordable Care Act." But another group reverses the spin by calling it the menacing-sounding "ObamaCare."
My first guess is the title is something vague and impressive-sounding. They could be "Marketing Consultant," "Public Relations Expert," or "Mental Systems Analyst." But if we're going to keep these highly-paid people around, their names should be more honest. My top choices are:
- Mental Pinwheel Architect
- Society Rationalization Czar
- Brainwashing Euphorist
- Brain Matter Putty Plastician
- Super Bullshit Man (must wear a foul-smelling mask and cape)
...maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I now want the job for a mere chance to use some of those names.
Hollywood makes lots of films about past steps we've taken for racial and gender equality. Off the top of my head, there's The Help, Hidden Figures, Selma, Iron Jawed Angels, Straight Outta Compton, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave. They're focused more on the past, and have a "pat on the back" appeal for many. We're reminded of our great progress and feel grateful for today's society.
The few movies I remember focusing more on the present are Dear White People and Get Out. A common theme was reminding white people they're still part of racist systems today. Those systems only adapted to society's last attempt to remove them, and we still need to change them. I'll admit that's a bitter message for many white people, even the liberal ones.
But what happens when you reinforce ideas that past generations did all the hard work? That all we need to do today is remember, be thankful, and get teary-eyed over it all? Who's going to think there's still lots of work for everyone to do today?
Convincing people there's nothing left to change is, after all, one of the best ways those mostly white men in power stay there.