I know I said wasn’t going to post this coming week, but…I changed my mind! Letting go of the past, not only of the physical stuff but the mental stuff as well, to make space for the now, has been on my mind a lot this month.
Reading Love People Use Things, they did an experiment by packing up the entire house like they were going to move and then only getting out the things they needed to use. After a while, you start to see how much of the house just sits there unused, taking up space.
I thought of when we go on an adventure with out trailer. We’re out there on the road for a few weeks at a time without all the things that are in our house, and most of them we don’t miss at all. The box of cables, the old shirts, the stuff we’re saving for later, it isn’t really needed. We could live without it.
When I go to clean out a closet, I look at the things and start to think, “But what if I need that later?” I have boxes of cables that go to nothing, a cupboard of old computers that hasn’t been opened in years, plastic totes filled with interesting things that have no real use but to spark memories (which could be done just as well with a photo).
I’m starting to thing 2021 will be the year of letting go and making space, not only in my home but in my mind. I’m holding on to a lot of stuff that isn’t useful.
If you’d like to read more about this book, go back to my first post, “Love People Use Things: A New Read” to start at the beginning. You’ll find links at the bottom of that post to other articles.
“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt explains his ideas on Moral Foundations Theory. I just finished reading it and let me tell you, it was worth the effort. The first couple of chapters sucked me in with his elephant and rider analogy of human behavior, but about halfway through it started to lag. Maybe it got too technical. Maybe it just didn’t feel relatable. There was a time when I thought (and noted), “Yes, but what can we DO about it?” The last few chapters gave me some ideas and some hope, so I’ll rate it A for awesome.
The subtitle tells you exactly why I decided to read this book, “Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” I don’t know how many times I’ve wondered to myself (and aloud to my family) why such seemingly intelligent people could be so fired up and ready to physically go to blows over a difference of opinion. I have close friends and family that support and push political agendas that, in my opinion, just seem crazy. Why? What the heck, people? This book helped me make some sense of it.
Now…do I feel better? Do I think there is any hope of avoiding something seriously damaging to our world in the near future, now that I’ve read this book? Not really. Sorry. I’m a pessimist when it comes to collective thought and politics these days. I just don’t see a way out. But I do know that I’m not the smartest person around or the most well-informed, so there’s still a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind. A miracle could happen. There could be, somewhere out there, individuals scattered across the world, that can help the rest of us pull our heads out and turn the ship around. Right?
Yeah…kind of in a mood this week. Sorry.
But this book! His theories and his research have really lightened my mood. There are reasons why things are happening the way they are. There is a way to understand others and come to some kind of compromise. There’s chance that we could start the ship toward living together in peace. It’s a hopeful kind of understanding of the human mind.
“Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together.”
We all actually do have a similar goal, to live in peace, to end violence, for everyone to have enough, but we all come to it from different directions. We’re told not to post our thoughts and ideas on social media. Don’t share your point of view. Keep your opinions to yourself. It’s not polite. But if we can’t talk to each other about these things, how do even begin to understand?
“…self-righteous…means ‘convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant.’”
We ALL are, left and right, liberal and conservative, self-righteous about something.
“Emotions are not dumb. Damasio’s patients made terrible decisions because they were deprived of emotional input into their decision making. Emotions are a kind of information processing.”
This reminds me of what Noah Rashad was saying on Secular Buddhism. The point of emotion is our intuition telling us something MAY be important. Our job is to notice it, pause and make an assessment, and then CHOOSE an action based on that assessment. Haidt here is speaking of patients that had lost their emotions due to accident or defect. Logic and reason will only get you so far. Those who base their action solely on logic and reason will end up doing atrocious things.
“In this chapter I’ll show that reason is not fit to rule; it was designed to seek justification, not truth.”
That is exactly what we do. We have a feeling, think about it some (hopefully), reason why we should have that feeling, and then go with it. Haidt says that when we want to believe something we reason to find out if we can, and when we don’t want to believe something, we reason to find out if we must.
His idea of Moral Foundations Theory is fascinating. He compares our morals to taste buds on the tongue, a limited number of basic tastes that combine to make each of us different. We’re born with a first draft of innate taste buds but our experience revises which ones we use more, rely on, or prefer. That really hit home because I’ve always thought of myself as naturally a conservative person, more likely to prefer less change and stable outcomes, but I’m liberally trained by my experience in the world. I have learned to enjoy some change and look for different experiences, points of view, and ways of thinking.
A whole chapter is dedicated to why we seem to be compelled to form into groups and take sides. And explains why some of us tend to be a bit more individualistic. It’s always safer in groups, that’s why women always take a friend to the restroom when they’re out in public. And groups are safer when we all have similar values and norms. This was my favorite chapter.
“We humans have a dual nature – we are selfish primates who long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. If you take that claim metaphorically, then the groupish and hivish things that people do will make a lot more sense. It’s almost as though there’s a switch in our heads that activates our hivish potential when conditions are just right.”
It is easier to live in a group than alone. Self-sufficiency is inefficient, like “The Rational Optimist” points out. But there are degrees of groups, from urban city to rural farms, from suburbs to mountain towns. And what it takes to get along in each of those is different. I keep seeing east coast city dwellers attempt to make laws and regulations for Midwest farmers, and west coast suburbanites dictate what life should look like in the rural south. That’s where the fights begin. Is there a way for us all to live our own lives in our own areas without harassing our distant neighbors about how they live theirs?
Have I convinced you to go get this book? I hope so. One more thing before I go. The last chapter was titled, “Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?” It’s the chapter that gave me some hope. We all have to live here together, whether we like it or not. The best way to do that is to stop making other people live and act the way we want them to. Instead of lifting up and emphasizing our differences: race, color, culture, location, creed, etc., we could do a lot better by emphasizing our similarities. If we make teams and take sides, good and evil, right and wrong, it’s very hard to meet in the middle. There is no compromise with a partner that is evil and wrong.
We could sit back and take care of ourselves, leave others to do the same, and compromise when we need to so that we can share space without getting on each other nerves. Seems too reasonable. Probably will never work.
If you’d like to read my first post about this book, go back to The Righteous Mind: New Read. If you’re interesting in learning more about Moral Foundations Theory, I have an extra copy of this book that you’re welcome to have. The first person to comment that they want it will get it!
Oh, my goodness, you guys! Another Podcast Review is here already! Are you excited? I am. I have successfully ended my trouble with travel anxiety through technology.
I have a lot to share, but this time I’ll do it slightly different. It took some effort to get the computer out and get started today. I’m tired after yesterday’s adventure. It was worth it though! Breakfast on the pier with a friend and then a walk around Balboa Park and a fancy lunch with my son. Not to mention, the six hours of podcasts I got to listen to. Bonus!
Let’s see…getting out the playlist on my phone…
This time, since I heard I’m going to write ONE sentence about each of the nine episodes I listened to, but there was so much more.
Shortcuts that show us instant visible progress hamper our long-term development.
Side Note: As I sat in 15mph traffic, I saw a sign that said “60mph Zone Will Be Enforced” and laughed out loud at the image of someone panicking, attempting to get around people and stay at 60mph to avoid a ticket. Those comical signs are all over the freeways, as I drive ten miles an hour over every week while people angrily blaze around me. How exactly are they doing this “enforcement”? It’s not trivial. I may write a whole post about just that in the future.
It’s the feelings that we continually dream about that we should be concerned about, not the objects and people we see in our dreams.
I did it! I didn’t think I could for all of them. There were a few that I started to apologize about and just write two or three sentences, but I sat back and thought again. It was possible to put it into one, concise sentence. The cooler part is that there was a lot more to those episodes that I took notes on and might write about in the future. And I found at least three new books to add to my TBR list!
Yes, I went back and added up the hours/minutes of each episode. And, yes, it was hard because I’m not that bright when it comes to numbers. It totaled up to almost six hours, give or take few minutes. I spent a lot of time in the car and not a minute was agonized over.
Technology has ended my travel anxiety and made driving much more peaceful in so many ways, but that is another post my friends. Have a great day and go listen to some podcasts while you get where you’re going. You won’t regret it!
Want to read more about the podcasts I’ve heard? Go back to the beginning and check out my first Podcast Roundup #1. At the bottom, you’ll find links to more.
Some believe that tyranny is the only way to control the darker side of humanity, the long game that will bring peace. “Yes, I killed millions and destroyed worlds, but it had to be done…for the good of the many.” You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? How many times must we hear this?!
“Songmaster” took me about half the book to get into and then it suddenly came flooding in on my heart. Like Ender’s Game, the premise is a complicated one for me to stay with. It just hurts too much and, in my opinion, is just…wrong? Or is it? Is there ever a reason to systematically torture young children in the hopes of weeding out the one that will save us all? Does tyranny of the relatively few make the galaxy a better place in the long run?
At first the story is crazy. A whole planet devoted to developing beautiful singers to entertain a chosen few. They are worshipped like beautiful works of art. But these are human beings. Each of them is taken to the “school” as a toddler and taught in a way that gives them no choice in the matter. Of course, there are some that cannot be taught, but they are pretty much useless in the world and end up serving the school in some capacity for the rest of their lives.
But if we put all that real world stuff aside for a moment, it makes a great story. It’s “the chosen one” theme, right? Like Anakin Skywalker or The Golden Child.
The book got exciting for me when it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. The political strategy was interesting. Characters were playing the long game, which never works in real life, especially when we’re talking about governing a galaxy. Of course, there’s some crazy violence throughout. The “you have to be a crazy murdering tyrant to bring peace to the galaxy” kind of violence. Darth Vadar thought so too.
As usual, what really got me in the feels was the relationship stuff. The connections between characters, the questioning of moral standards. Homosexuality is not acceptable and acted on violently in this society, but homosexuals are shown in a light love and connection. It broke my heart.
Child molestation comes up and is not condoned or put in a positive light. I felt that was very well done. The school gives a young singer to a master and the child is expected to sing as a beloved slave until they are fifteen years old when they return to the school. The music is beautiful and said to inspire love and passion, bring peace, so you can only imagine the implications.
One of my favorite lines was, “Ansset, your love was never slight. You gave without bar, and received without caution, and just because it brought pain doesn’t mean that it is gone.” Pain comes along with love because the only way to love and be loved is to be vulnerable. We cannot build a tight fortress around our hearts and minds and expect to feel anything.
That’s what the singers are taught to do. The build a high wall of control around their own feelings and cut everyone out. I’m not sure how that makes them better singers, or how it makes their songs change people. Somehow, they are able to use their songs as interpreters of the heart, without opening their own. It doesn’t make sense to me.
There was a much larger story, the one about bringing a real peace to the galaxy, not one controlled by violence and fear through tyranny, but it’s one I’m can barely see the outlines of. I’d have to read it all again and bounce it off someone else that read it to get more. The love story is what caught my attention, and I know that love story mirrors what was happening politically and spiritually, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.
Here’s where I feel like I’m lacking when I read. I’ll write this and then put the book down, keep the basic feeling of the story, letting the details and the broader connection fade in my memory. Once again, I’m left wishing there was someone else that had read this recently and wanted to talk about it.
Sigh…I have to find a better way to keep track of why I put a book on my wishlist. Seriously. If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment. I’m think maybe I’ll start adding a section of my idea card file called “Books” and actually write it down: the title, where I heard it or the author, what I know or what brought me to want to read it, and the date. It seems that physically writing things down, not kept in an app or on a website, works best for me.
The past few years I’ve felt more and more pushed away by my friends and family over politics. Religion? Well, it sure looks like our whole nation has created a new religion centered on politics, so maybe they’re one and the same these days. Maybe The Righteous Mind will help me sort that out.
The great divide came to my notice when Donald Trump was elected, but I know it was growing long before that. People were getting heated and upset, arguments were getting nastier and more personal, debate and discussion, even among close friends, was ending, but the day after the election is what really started to scare me.
Years ago, a friend started a group order from an online organic food company that brought the whole order by truck to our area once a month. We’d all meet there and sort through it, getting our bulk quinoa and whole grains. It was a cheap way to get all the things we couldn’t find in our rural desert town and, when it was small, it was a great monthly meetup for all of us, too.
As the order grew, the management of it was passed to someone else and it started to be less fun and more of a chore, but still worth the time because I got things I couldn’t get at the store. Since my sons were nearly grown and not so much interested in going to homeschool events and park days, it was a chance to see and catch up with other moms I didn’t get to see that often anymore.
The day after the 2016 election was the last day that I picked up an order at that truck. I knew it was going to be a strange time by the tone people were already using on social media. But I believed that in person, things would be different.
When I arrived, the truck was already there and unloading. People were gathered in small groups at their cars, talking and waiting for their name to be called, as usual. I saw a few people I knew, stopped to talk to one friend and then heard my name. As I walked over to get my few things, I overheard conversations that made my blood run cold. I know, I’m dramatic, but it did scare me. And the past eighteen months has built on that feeling in tremendous ways.
I heard tears and actual wailing. I heard comments like, “If I know anyone that voted for him, I’m going to kill them.” “We should find them all out and do something.” “I can’t imagine what kind of a horrible person would vote for someone like that.” There were actual threats over national politics, by people I thought were peace lovers. I said nothing to anyone. I loaded my truck and drove away. Since that day, I’ve spoken to only one person that was there. These are my neighbors, and some were friends.
I could go on about this, but I don’t think I need to. The point is not that one politician, or party, is better or worse than another. The point is that good people, people I had no problem talking with before an election, now were standing there threatening people for disagreeing with them. Standing there among them I heard tones of a mob, Nazi brownshirts, and the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition at a food truck pickup!
And it seems things have only gotten worse over the last five years. And it has nothing to do with the politicians themselves. It’s us. We’re doing this to each other voluntarily. When I heard Jonathan Haidt interviewed, I had to run out and get this book. Maybe it will help me learn why this is happening. Why are we treating each other like enemies? Why are we separating into sides instead of working together? And how can people I have always believed were open-minded and reasonable adults become so violently opposed to the “other side?”
From the introduction, “I’m not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts’an. In fact, I believe a world without moralism, gossip, and judgement would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we’re all playing.”
That’s exactly what I crave when I check social media, read articles and books, watch videos, and talk with friends and family, “to understand ourselves.” None of us is outside the battle of division. The best way to calm things down, in my opinion, is to try and understand the other side of every argument. Hopefully, The Righteous Mind will be enlightening.
“In this book I have tried to build on both Adam Smith and Charles Darwin: to interpret society as the product of a long history of what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls ‘bubble-up’ evolution through natural selection among cultural rather than genetic variations, and as an emergent order generated by an invisible hand of individual transactions, not the product of top-down determinism.”
“Futurology always ends up telling you more about your own time than about the future.”
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
This book is so full of legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the future that it’s hard to quote from, hard to pull out one piece and attempt to get you excited about reading it. But I want you to read it. It’s still (10 years after publication) what we need to hear as we continue to pull each other down across the internet.
Politicians, activists, scientists, and media producers have always been telling us that the world is getting worse. If they told you that everything was great, we are right on track, and not to worry, it would seem that we need fewer laws, lower taxes, and fewer politicians. And they aren’t doing it intentionally or because they are evil. They do it because optimism doesn’t sell, pessimism is what keeps them employed. It’s the same reason the new soap company tells you that your old soap is causing you problems and theirs is going to solve all those problems you didn’t know you had.
The book does not deny that things can be improved. It’s rational optimism, not putting on rose colored glasses. It doesn’t deny climate change or science. It doesn’t claim that the world is so damn rosy that we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. His claim is that things are getting better and will continue to do so IF we can keep communicating ideas between each other and have the freedom to work together in amazing ways.
This morning I read in the August issue of Reason magazine, “When things are worse, or perceived as worse, people grow less tolerant, less empathetic, less open to compromise, and they offer each other less leeway. A sense of scarcity or impending scarcity fosters a zero-sum mindset.”
The more we believe what they say instead of evaluating our own experience (through their lens not our own), the angrier and more distrustful we are of the people around us, which creates the negative experiences we read about and then gets amplified on social media because we just have to warn the others. It’s a spiral downward.
I loved this book because he doesn’t claim to have the answers. He doesn’t even claim that everything will work out for the best in the end. What he does say is that we should be aware that this world is changing so rapidly, no one can clearly predict what will happen and what we should do about it now. In the past, freedom and less control are what seem to get us where we want to be with the fewest casualties, maybe we should try staying on that track.
And there are rational reasons for optimism, despite what the news and the politicians are saying. I can see that in my own life, without ever opening my computer or watching the news. My life is much easier and richer than my parents’ was, and my children are already better off than I was at their age. Watching them find jobs and housing this past year was FAR easier than when I was doing it. Your field of search is unlimited. You can search, interview, and apply for an apartment, all online from a thousand miles away.
Don’t know how to do something? Google it and you’ll find a step-by-step video from a hundred different people or a free online class. Want to visit a place? Whip out your phone, read reviews, make reservation, all while you’re driving following directions that tell you where the traffic is lighter. Want to skip the crowds? Order online, have things delivered, or look at an app that tells you how crowded a restaurant or park is in real time.
And there’s not just optimism in our personal lives. The whole world is getting better, and he shares all the statistics to prove it. We feed more people, live in cleaner environments, and live healthier, longer lives. And richer we get, the more we have to share and help others get where we are.
It all starts with the freedom to trade, the building of technology, and trust. The more we see the positives, the happier we all are, and the more we start to trust and help each other.
So…yeah, this was a great book. I’m glad I read it again. Have you read The Rational Optimist? You should! If each of us started to have a slightly better outlook about the future of humanity, just think how much good we could do!
“Songmaster” by Orson Scott Card will be the third book I’ve read by Card, the first being, of course, Ender’s Game. I read that long before the movie. The whole family read it and we loved it. It scared the crap out of us, and we all cried and yelled about it as we read. When we heard that a movie was going to come out, and Harrison Ford was going to be in it, there was much rejoicing.
The second one was the second book in that series. I never finished it. It was just too … weird? I’m not sure I have a word for it. This book is, so far, similar in weirdness.
I’ll be honest, I’m not huge fan of sci-fi. I know…geez! But I have enjoyed the classics in the past.
I saw this book by Card in the pile of freebies, so I picked it up and put it on my TBR shelf. I started reading it yesterday and I’m not sure I like it. I just don’t care about the characters. I haven’t found any that I can relate to or sympathize with, no connection.
My problem with sci-fi, and a lot of fantasy, is the settings and situations can get so far outside of what I know of my own world, that I can’t picture the scene. And then, when the characters follow suit, I just can connect with what they are feeling. It’s like watching a thriller tv show where you just don’t care which character dies next.
I’ll keep reading Songmaster, though. I want to know why this boy was kidnapped and how he will sing the world to destruction. That’s just weird, see? Maybe I’m not in the right frame of mind?
And what’s up with Card and his obsession with very young children put into impossible (usually horrible, violent, and abusive) circumstances to save the world? This boy was kidnapped at two or three years old and raised into a very strict cult (to my thinking) that schools children into singers that serve mankind. I’m not sure how or why. They seem to be raised to be entertainment slaves.
The boy in Songmaster is about six or seven years old when he is sent to serve his new master and will retire around fourteen, to spend the rest of his life inside the cult supporting and teaching other very young children.
It’s all so strange. Let me know if you’ve read this one. I’d love to hear someone else’s opinion. Maybe I’m missing something deeper to the story.
I just did a quick search to see if I had written about Ender’s Game in the past but found something terrible. Another confirmation that I only remember a tiny fraction of what I read. I have read a third book by Card in the past and loved it, “Enchantment.” THAT was a beautiful book!
Brought all the way back from May 31, 2017, I’m posting this old review of Enchantment in anticipation of my next post about another Orson Scott Card book, Songmaster. I found this one while looking for something else and was thrown off for a few minutes. When writing about my current read, I didn’t recall that I had read this. Only because of the post do I remember. It’s frustrating.
Also, I’m a bit unnerved about how much my worldview has changed over the last four years. Life changes us, doesn’t it? Anyway, hope you enjoy this blast from the past. It was a beautiful book, I DO remember that!
I just finished Orson Scott Card’s “Enchantment” this morning, May 31, 2017, and that is exactly how I felt when I closed it, enchanted. I fell in love with this book immediately when I picked it up out of a box of books my friend was giving away. I love it because it blends a bit of history with fantasy, a little time travel, a little magic, and a happy story.
There were so many great pieces of the book, but I don’t really want to get into it because I’ll give away the magic. Here was my favorite quote from reading Enchantment today!
Speaking of the magic of being pregnant, “As he grew, his power was part of me. For those months, I felt like the goddess of creation. And then he was born and became his own man, and I was just myself again.” This touched me because I’m at that point in my life as my sons become men. I’m left alone, being myself. It’s a difficult transition to make, going from creating and nurturing life, through supporting it, and then letting it out into the world to do what God created it to do. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this feeling. It is magical.
I’m not all that fond of the use of Christianity as just another magic in the world, but I’ll let it slide since Enchantment is fiction. I would have liked to see Christianity have a stronger influence, a stronger magic than that of this world the people were using, but I get that it’s not a Christian book per se. I can see some Christian readers not liking it for that reason. But I felt throughout the book that, like in Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, there was some deeper magic going on here! Even though it wasn’t explicit, I knew where it was coming from.
This is a spoiler in my book, so gloss over the next paragraph if you think you’ll read Enchantment anytime soon!
The priest uses his Bible and the commandment “In the name of Christ” to stop something bad from happening. Some may think that this is a condemnation of the power of Christ. I do not. I believe it is a condemnation of the power of religion and superstition. The priest did not love others as God does, he lived in the time he was in. He saw people only as they were useful to politics, to keep the church in control. He was from a different land, a missionary to this place. He did not live as one of the people.
Hold on! I just realized something as I was typing this idea out. I’m currently studying at online seminary that talks about this very thing. Their hope is to train up people in Christ among their own people and culture so that they will “bloom where they are planted.” It’s the opposite of the Catholic idea of separating people who are felt called by God to lead, training them in isolation, and then planting them in foreign places where the church thinks they are needed. I honestly think this has more to do with politics than spreading the gospel of Jesus. The idea of Christian Leaders Institute is to share information on the internet for free so that people can be trained in what the Bible says and lead others to Christ where they are. It doesn’t make for a strong central church or any real power, but it does help bring the love of Christ to more people, in my opinion.
Wow. I’m continually amazed at how everything that comes across my path ends up being related and how it leads me to wonder at the power of God. This book is filled with that idea. Who brought these people together? And why? What was the bigger picture? We really don’t know, but we use what have to build where we are. It’s truly wonderful.
Where will I go next? Where will my life, my study, my passions take me? Who will come into my path? Which leads me to what I read in my class this morning. “See the potential in people without pre-qualifying them.” That’s what we are called to do as Christians. Every single person on earth was created and is loved by God. Each one has the potential to do great things. I could have set this book aside because its author is a Mormon, not of my faith, but I didn’t. It, as every other thing, has potential to move my heart toward God and this surely has. Working and living with people is the same. Everyone has potential to do God’s work, whether we see it or not. Mentor them, offer them the love of Christ through you, and watch what God does!
I just read back from the beginning of this post and realized something. He was born and became his own man, I say, the minute he was born, not after her grew up. Our children are born as whole individuals, dependent on another’s support, yes, but fully formed with their own innate potential. We should be treating our children in this same way, as “potential without pre-qualifications”. They don’t need to be filled with certain things by us to become their own person, they are born that way. Ours is to see the potential and mentor it until they can be independent of us.
If you’ve read Enchantment, let me know in the comments. If you haven’t, go get it. You won’t regret it!
Social status, trade, and trust are the first three things I’m riffing on from The Rational Optimist. Humans are so very fascinating.
There’s just so much to talk about in this book! It’s riveting and not a slog to read at all. It’s fun and light and changes your perspective. I am happy that I decided to re-read it.
At first, I thought, “I’ll summarize each chapter so everyone can get the info in here!” Nah, that’s boring. Then I thought maybe I’d just take a line or two from each chapter. Too many posts. A line or two from two chapters? Still too much. Screw it. How about a line that made me say, “Yeah, dammit!” That sounds doable.
Here’s something to chew on.
“Why, asks Geoffrey Miller, ‘would the world’s most intelligent primate buy a Hummer H1 Alpha sport-utility vehicle’, which seats four, gets ten miles to the gallon, takes 13.5 seconds to reach 60mph, and sells for $139,771? Because, he answers, human beings evolved to strive to signal social status and sexual worth.”
This book was written in 2010, so the signals have changed dramatically, in some circles, but there are still signals and there always will be. One generation, subculture, and such, won’t understand another’s and call them crazy, selfish, obnoxious, and/or old school evil. Humans are so strange.
“Trade is often unequal, but still benefits both sides.”
I always find it odd that someone outside an exchange believes they can tell whether the exchange is beneficial. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t have completed the exchange. Are you saying one side is too feeble minded? They can’t understand their own wants and needs and need to be taken care of by their betters?
If I come to you with something that is easy for me to get or make and say, “I’ll give you four of these if you give me two of those awesome things that I can’t make for myself.” You’re laughing inside thinking, “What a goof! These things are everywhere or are easy to make.” I’m thinking the same about you. We both walk away thinking we won.
The same goes for labor. My son, when he was young, was asked by a neighbor to come clean his yard each week and do a few chores. He’d give him $50 each week to do this. My son jumped at the opportunity. As a parent, I realized that he’d be working there all day, probably nearly ten hours in the heat. That’s $5 an hour, not worth it to me. But to a twelve-year-old? That’s some serious cash. I didn’t interfere. He’s free to exchange his time and labor for whatever he thinks is fair.
A few weeks into the job, he realized how much time he was spending there and asked for a raise. The neighbor thought his work was worth the money and started giving him $100 a week. He knows the value of his own time and effort and was willing to exchange it for that price.
Should someone step in and stop this exchange? Apparently, most of us say yes.
About a year later, my son found other things that were worth more to him than that $100 a week. And when he turned 16, he found “legal” (insert eyeroll) work that paid him more. That job lasted until he decided he had enough, his time was worth more, so he went in search of someone that felt the same way.
If he hadn’t found anyone that believed his work was worth more, he would have had to change his work, build new skills, or lower his expectations. Forcing someone by law (violence) to exchange at a pre-fixed rate is wrong and creates more problems.
Ok, enough of that. Moving on.
“Famously, no other species of ape can encounter strangers without trying to kill them, and the instinct still lurks in the human breast.”
Ha ha! No shit, right? Humans do this really weird thing called trust. We invented it. All other animals only build trust within a family. Trust is what lets us trade things with other people. And when we don’t trust, that’s when things start to get ugly.
I think we’re in a pretty low state of trust at the moment and the government, with the help of our media, is taking advantage of that. THOSE people are out to get you. THEY get more. THEY want to hurt you. And it’s coming from both Democrats and Republicans in the US. Why? I’m not sure, but I bet I has something to do with staying in control since that’s the only commodity a government has.
In my town this past year, I’ve seen more and more “Go Back to LA” stickers and they make me sick. I’ve been told that it is in response to the wave of people from the city moving out into rural areas and “taking over.” How dare they? This is OUR turf. They don’t belong here. The crazy part is that I’m hearing it directly from people who also moved out here to escape city life a bit, like me.
I live near a National Park and a Marine base. Everyone here is from out of town. The area relies on it and wouldn’t exist if not for those attractions. This “Go Back to LA” slogan is only another wall between me and my neighbors, and the tourists that come here to visit and vacation. And what about those few souls that feel drawn to this place and come here to build a life for themselves? How do they feel when they see those? I’ve talked to a few. They’re afraid of their neighbors.
If trust is that low in a neighborhood, between friends, at businesses, and online, can you imagine what it is up the chain? How about banks, investors, and government officials; those people that keep this giant machine we’ve created going, the ones with the money and guns and the law to back them? This is how trade slows. This is how people starve. This is how wars start and are supported. This is how people die.
How can we help? I think it starts with turning off the news and maybe even dropping social media for a while. It’s a lot easier to relax when you’re not bombarded with bad news messages at every moment of every day.
Everyone on this planet has the power to start being nicer, assuming positive intent, and trusting the people around us. We can do our best to take care of ourselves, our families, and one other person, maybe even two. Your neighbor isn’t a monster. That person at the grocery store you haven’t seen before isn’t trying to horn in on your game. He’s just a guy trying to get through this world just like you.
Maybe we can create some new “social status” cues, like being kind and generous in person instead of putting a special frame on our social media profile.
Want to read more posts about this book? Pop back to my first post, The Rational Optimist: New Read. You’ll find my first thoughts about the book and links to any follow-up posts there.
The best kind of re-read is because the book was so good, so packed full of awesome, that I want to read it all again and savor it. If it’s been a while since I’ve read the book, I wonder if it will feel different this time around. Will it still be relevant? Will I still feel the same way about the text? Have I changed, has the world changed, so much that I’ll get something completely different from this read? THAT happens to me most with fiction. Books that I read when I was a kid, or even ten years ago, have a different effect on me. I’ve grown, but the book remains the same.
What brought me back to The Rational Optimist? A couple things. First was that I was cleaning and reorganizing my bookshelves and rediscovered it.
The final straw was the last book I started reading, “Mao – The Unknown Story.” It was so depressing, that I dropped it and went to look for an antidote. There was The Rational Optimist staring at me from the shelf calling quietly, “Pick me!” So, I did.
And here we are. I’m one hundred pages in so far and enjoying it immensely.
From the introduction chapter, “When Ideas Have Sex” …
“What is it about human beings that enables them to keep changing their lives in this tumultuous way? It is not as if human nature changes. Just as the hand that held the hand axe was the same shape as the hand that holds the mouse, so people always have and always will seek food, desire sex, care for offspring, compete for status and avoid pain just like any other animal.”
“It was not something that happened within the brain. It was something that happened between brains. It was a collective phenomenon.”
“At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other animal.”
And my favorite, “This book dares the human race to embrace change, to be rationally optimistic and thereby to strive for the betterment of humankind and the world it inhabits.”
I’m excited. Are you? I believe the world in general is getting better but lately, like the past ten years, we’ve been letting fear resonate instead of hope, and letting the internet scare us into thinking it’s worse and someone should do something about it.
The Rational Optimist was written in 2010, just as social media was getting busier. I last read the book in 2015. It’s 2021 now. Have things changed for the worse? I don’t think so.
Have you read this book? Do you want to? Leave a message in the comments!