navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

Expandmenu Shrunk

  • Category Archives Semantics
  • So now even millennial suicide bombers are too narcissistic:

    Mustafa Hamid, a former high-ranking Egyptian volunteer with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, described his own frustration with many of the later waves of volunteers arriving to that conflict. “One of the negatives that emerged from the jihad, and which continues to have severe consequences today, was the tendency for the youth to focus not on success and achieving victory and liberating Afghanistan, but on their desire for martyrdom and to enter paradise,” Hamid wrote. This overriding preoccupation with becoming a martyr meant that participation in the conflict, “became individual instead of for the benefit of the group or the country where the fight for liberation is taking place.”


  • Is Everything Wrestling?

    Can you smell what The Rock is cookin’?

    Great NYTimes article on truth and stories:

    This is partly because the rest of the world has caught up to wrestling’s ethos. With each passing year, more and more facets of popular culture become something like wrestling: a stage-managed “reality” in which scripted stories bleed freely into real events, with the blurry line between truth and untruth seeming to heighten, not lessen, the audience’s addiction to the melodrama. The modern media landscape is littered with “reality” shows that audiences happily accept aren’t actually real; that, in essence, is wrestling. (“WWE Raw” leads to “The Real World,” which leads to “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and so forth.) The way Beyoncé teased at marital problems in “Lemonade” — writing lyrics people were happy to interpret as literal accusations of her famous husband’s unfaithfulness — is wrestling. The question of whether Steve Harvey meant to announce the wrong Miss Universe winner is wrestling. Did Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj authentically snap at each other at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards? The surrounding confusion was straight out of a wrestling playbook.


  • persona

    I see people over and over again underestimating people and overestimating brands.  Everyone said Apple was going to remain innovative and unstoppable even after the passing of Steve Jobs.  People kept thinking Trump was a flash-in-the-pan candidates.  It’s just part of our evolution that we gravitate toward individuals and see our world through relationships with people instead of brands or principles (that’s why a lot of brands have spokes people).  Christianity is no stranger to this claiming their religion is a “personal relationship with God”.

  • Three Weak Words

    I have always felt like “I feel like” as a phrase was disingenuous:

    Writing in The New York Times, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls out the three words you should stop using:

    “I feel like … ”

    They’re weak words, weasel words, conflict-avoiding words. Words that we use when we don’t have the courage of our convictions, and we’d rather hedge our bets and say something in a calculated way that sacrifices certainty for safety.

    And yet, they’re common–and only becoming more so. I’m sure you see it in your work and in your life. People who are afraid simply to say what they mean, and feel instead that they have to couch their convictions with language about how they feel.

  • On Facts

    From an After the Fact New Yorker article:

    Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. (See: climate change, above.)

    In England, the abolition of trial by ordeal led to the adoption of trial by jury for criminal cases. This required a new doctrine of evidence and a new method of inquiry, and led to what the historian Barbara Shapiro has called “the culture of fact”: the idea that an observed or witnessed act or thing—the substance, the matter, of fact—is the basis of truth and the only kind of evidence that’s admissible not only in court but also in other realms where truth is arbitrated. Between the thirteenth century and the nineteenth, the fact spread from law outward to science, history, and journalism.

  • trust in a person vs trust in God

    One of the interesting things that comes out of marketing Christianity as a “personal relationship with God” is people take that paradigm to mean one can trust God the way one trusts a person.  When one trusts a person it is an implicit expectation that they’ll deliver on something.  For example if you trust a pizza delivery company, you expect the pizza there within a reasonable amount of time.  If the pizza doesn’t come you will get mad at the pizza company and maybe leave a bad Yelp review.  But this anger shows that you respect the company in a way.  If the roles were reversed and you didn’t deliver on something you’d respect and accept the resulting bad reviews and understand that was a necessary evil to keep society running smoothly.

    Trust in God is open ended (but people selling you religion fail to mention this).  God cares about you on his own terms.  His actions are not subject to evaluation by empirical evidence, only scripture and church teaching.  That means if God comes through that’s great, if he doesn’t there’s something wrong with the way you are seeing things.  This is almost the exact opposite of how trust between humans works.  You are expected to expect nothing.  Respect is shown by submission instead of empathy.

    Of course Christians try their best to market the faith as allowing one to trust God as one trusts a person.  Of course they don’t tell you that sometimes part of trusting a person involves them betraying your trust (for example when you tell someone you have planned and are about to commit suicide).

  • Mental Health and Christianity

    Great comment on a thread on the Ex-Christian subreddit asking why Christians are so uptight about Mental Health treatment:

    Because a mental illness is essentially an illness of the consciousness, which is what people probably mean when they talk about a soul. So in that regard, mental health is basically spiritual health and that’s supposed to be God’s job. Seeking help elsewhere is basically saying that a good God is doing his job badly. A kind of action-implied blasphemy. I’ve literally heard my aunt say “there’s no way you can actually be depressed when you have Jesus in your life”. Not knowing, of course, that it’s something I was struggling with. :/

    It’s gotta be a holdover from when illnesses like epilepsy and schizophrenia were understood as demon possession. (perhaps also, ironically, as gifts of prophecy?)

  • used on you

    There is often a very easy explanation for the beliefs one uses to navigate this world of ours.  How beliefs are used.  People figure if someone is using a belief on them it must be good enough for them to use.  A few hypothetical examples:

    Susie is a 23 year old college graduate who is 30 pounds overweight.  She double majored in math and psychology.  Like many women her age she has body image issues and doesn’t have the metabolism needed to become slender.  She has seen therapists before who told her she was fine just the way she was but she called bullshit on them.  In conflict here is business to business (b2b) verses and business to consumer (b2c) psychology.  Susie absorbed the messages from advertisements vetted by b2b psychologists and felt their direct and indirect (mediated by male and female peers) effects of a thin-obsessed culture.  For Susie poor body image isn’t an anomaly, it’s something handed down deliberately with the aid of b2b psychologist by a culture obsessed with thinness.  A b2c psychologist would stick the pejorative “insecure” label on her.  This same therapist might tell her she has innate worth regardless of her weight but outside the psychologist’s office this belief is not being used on her.  So she doesn’t use it.

    Bill is an unemployed 26 year old who had to move back to a town with no jobs to take care of his dad who had a stroke.  His parents are religious and are always trying to get him to go to church.  Bill goes to a few services and the church talks about how there is hope for everybody, even the least of these.  However the people in the church treat Bill like he’s invisible.  They use conjecture to assess his future and come to the conclusion that he has none.  Bill assumes rightly that if conjecture is ultimately what’s going to be used on him, it’s worth him using.  Bill tunes out all the blathering about hope and stops going to church.

    Nathaniel is a 28 year old working at a small local animal rights nonprofit.  Every day he’s writing grants and soliciting donors.  He wanted to work in a nonprofit to get away from the dollar driven world but it just didn’t work out.  When he gets home he’s greeted with oodles of mail from places he’s donated to once asking for more money.  Eventually Nathaniel succumbs to the idea he was running away from so hard, that money is the most important thing.

  • truth

    science vs faith

    For many in my generation a lie is simply an incongruity between actuality and what is presented verbally.  Truth then just becomes when words and ideas match up with experienced reality.  Daniel Masterson is an effective dating coach but more than that he is a truth teller.  He had a (sadly now defunct) website that told men the 14 things they needed if they ever wanted to get laid.  They were good practical things like good shoes, grooming, cloths, sociability, etc..   Someone on one of the AMA’s he was doing (an AMA is a sort of online interview on the social media site Reddit) called him Jesus.  Because he told the truth.

    It’s not a surprise that our generation has a tough time with religion.  Religion gives you a definition of truth (basically what they say truth is) and forces you to work backwards from it, evidence be darned.  It makes things even more unfair than they already are because while those who suffer the least can get through life on bad information fine, those who suffer more cannot.  For example you are expected to romanticize suffering and pretend God is there with you (some people can play cognitive tricks and make this work but many cannot and those who cannot are guilted instead of helped).  Belief in climate change is another issue, though there is nothing keeping a religious person from believing in human created climate change, the methodology of having things pushed in your brain via force and conditioning rather than rational inquiry makes you susceptible to accepting other comforting irrational ideas.

  • Sizing Someone Up

    Great tool for sizing someone up.  Breaks social class down to components.  I’m high on the education level for having a B.S. but that’s about it.

    This tool is great for those of us on the spectrum who may not be privy to social cues (I wasn’t in high school).  Of specific interest is the first gauge of occupation prestige.  A lot of my hunches were confirmed (like doctors being highest and blue collar things being lower).