A Million Points of Light


Walking up the stairs, a gaze across space. Glance up, a nod and a smile.
Sitting at a desk; hurries by, a wave and a ‘hi!’.

And there it stops.

It’s mind boggling, the possibilities. At every instant, you’re faced with a choice. It branches off ad infinitum, a never-ending number of parallel universes, containing every single possibility.

It’s like being in a library with a million books in front of you; A million books, a million view points, a million worlds. Astounding! The possibilities! At your finger tips! Each book you open brings you somewhere new, gives you something new, changes you in some way. The possibilities, they’re endless.

It’s like the internet; each site you visit opens up another ten links and each of those another ten and… it’s exponential!

You’re like a little frog, looking up at the vast, never-ending sky. There’s an entire world waiting to be conquered, to be explored, to be seen. The possibilities, endless.

And yet, there is stops.

You’re a frog… in a well. Or are you a frog that’s been conditioned to think there’s a well? No…I think the well’s real. Or have I merely been well conditioned?

You can’t read all of the books in the library. It’s all there, at your fingertips, but at the same time out of reach.

Every single person you walk past has their own story, a story that could fill ten novels, fill ten movies. Each and every single person you walk past has a name, a family, a history, a point of view, a personality. Their own lives, their own worlds, their own universe.

Imagine the possibilities?

They could have something in common with you. They probably do. What about that guy over there? Maybe you’d hit it off, really click. Maybe they share some of your strongest convictions. Maybe they could introduce you to a whole new world. Maybe they have the potential become your bosom buddy, if given half the chance. Maybe… one of them is The One?

Every. Single. Person. You pass by. Is as real as you are.

And yet, there it stops.

At least for me. I see the possibilities, but I don’t know how to make the connection. I don’t know how to move it past just that smile and a ‘hi’.

It’s like all of life; You could buy a plane ticket on a whim and be in Japan, or Scotland, or Italy tomorrow. Every moment opens endless possibilities. Yet… it doesn’t and yet you can’t.

All these characters, just secondary characters and calefare in the movie of my life- flat, 2D and boring. I know it’s not true! How do I give them main character statuses? More character development and… heck, give them their own spin-offs! I want to see all the possibilities. I want to see them!

It’s like a million points of lights. Each one you touch bursts into a million more points of light. Fireworks of possibilities. Never-ending ripples. Touch, touch, touch.

It must be nice to be god. The view must be mesmerizing  To be able to see all the possibilities unhidden. All the hyperlinks, all the braches and intricate patterns of interaction, all the points of light exploding and expanding outwards before you. Heck, you don’t need to be god; I can’t see it and already the mere idea mesmerizes me.

At your fingertips and beyond your reach.

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Introspection on introversion


They say that introverts have their energy sapped by social interaction and recharge with time spent alone.

It’s strange– there’s both a sense of ‘taking in’ lots of outside stimulus, and a sense of ‘putting out’ a lot of attention. I guess they amount to the same thing; in order to take in all the external stimulus, you have to give them a lot of attention.

It feels like I’m a sponge– it’s very easy to be passive and just soak in all the information, everything that is happening around. It’s much harder to ‘give out’ anything– to say or show or express. Hard to get stuff from inside to the external. Whereas for other people it happens effortlessly– every time they speak they show a little of their personality, a little of themselves. Some don’t even have to speak.

It feels like I’m a mirror– I try to reflect back what I see, what I ‘took in’. Playable catgut, pliable clay. Chameleon boy. A friend said, recently: I’m water, I take the shape of the container.

When I have all my attention on you – general you, plural you– I feel like I’m not in my own head. All my focus is on you, on you, on you. Trying to empathise, understand, see what you see, put myself in your shoes, on alert for any cues and clues for me to take in, wondering what you’re wondering, wondering how I appear to you. All that attention expanded is exhausting. What’s more, while that’s happening, there’s no one left in my head to think my thoughts. It’s hard to be me– when you ask me what I think, I think first about the answer from your point of view, and try to modulate. Of course, everyone does this to an extent (you’d describe your faith differently to a non-believer vs a believer; you’d talk about gay rights differently to a homophobe vs an activist) but is the difference normally so stark?

Things happen fast in the real world– there’s no time to think, to contemplate, to ponder, to ruminate. You just react. React. React.

When you don’t think– or when I don’t think– there’s no ‘I’. There’s no me thinking about what I’m thinking and why I’m thinking. There’s no metacognition. The me that is usually here talking to myself in my head doesn’t have time to be activated. It’s just… react, react, react. That… feels less like me.

It’s only when the activity stops, and I’m alone again, do I then feel like I’ve finally come back home, into my head, and I can think about the day and what has happened. Like the gears and thoughts and ‘me’ that have been on hold all day to concentrate on you, you, you can start moving again. Like you went out into the field to collect data — react, react, react– and now, with the day’s spoils in hand, you return, tired out, to your lab– your home ground, your headquarters– to examine and make sense of all the new data you now possess.

Which parts are acceptable and which parts should I aim to change? It can’t be good to be a chameleon boy, it can’t be good to be morning pipe smoke, playable catgut, pliable clay.

Of course, everything’s an exaggeration to an extent. Everyone has their own opinions, even if that opinion is pretty apathetic and easily influenced….

No. I’ve been moving away from that. There are things I feel strongly about, and I’m sure of those views. I won’t compromise on those and I will disagree with you.

But standing firm in your own head, on your own blog is so different from projecting your convictions in real life. If you attack, I’ll fight back but why remain lifeless unless provoked?

A never ending journey. I’m game. Next step.

Annoyance


When is annoyance at another individual justified?
By justified I don’t just mean that there ‘are good reasons’ for your annoyance, but ‘making it acceptable for you to be annoyed at another person‘. That is, I can allow myself to feel annoyed without trying to to eliminate those feelings, without feeling like I should try to be nicer and more understanding.

I suppose it’s entirely based on how high a standard you set for yourself?

Everything he says just seems to rub me the wrong way. And it feels like he’s doing it on purpose– being vague and deliberately difficult to understand and arrogant. Like he knows better than you. And if you can’t keep up with him, too bad. He’s not really interested in discussion anyways, just in shooting down other people’s opinions.

But I can’t tell if this is just me being biased. Or that’s just the way he expresses himself, he’s not really being arrogant. Maybe if he were a closer friend of mine maybe I’d just think, ‘Oh, that’s just the way he is. He doesn’t mean it that way.’ and take no offence. Maybe i’m just projecting a whole bunch of things that aren’t really there.

Maybe in being so quick to judge and blame and take offence, I’m the one who is being arrogant…

When in doubt, take a step back and err on the side of niceness. 

Double-Edged Sword of Intelligence and Knowledge


One thing that has always bugged me about religion is the fact that many of the religious people I know are highly intelligent (much smarter than me), well read and well educated (more well read than me), really nice and generally very awesome people who seem to have their lives completely figured out. In other words, many of them were people I really admired and looked up to. Why and how did they believe? They’re intelligent, logical people. Plain ignorance or misguided thinking can’t be the reason. It seems much more likely that I’m the one missing something rather than them. What is it that they can see, that they can understand, that I can’t?

For that same reasons, on the flip side it’s comforting to me to read or hear of people– scientist, pastors, friends-who-are-awesome — deconverting; It’s an even stronger ‘case’ this way round: The religious whom I admire have maybe only ever been on that side of the fence. But people who deconvert- especially pastors, for example- would know the religious side really well! It couldn’t be that they are ‘missing something’, because they obviously knew it before. They must know something that those still religious are don’t.

It’s really tempting and intuitive to do that, pointing to authority figures to support your point. But it’s also lazy, and isn’t really proof of anything. It’s basically saying something akin to, “Look, even Albert Einstein thought so; are you so arrogant as to think you’re smart and know better than Albert Einstein?” Er, no, definitely not. But are you suggesting that Albert Einstein is correct about everything just because he’s smarter than you or me?

Just because someone smarter than you thinks so, doesn’t mean you accept his opinion uncritically; Don’t piggy-back on other people’s conclusions, do your own thinking and make your own conclusions.

That’s not to say we discredit or ignore all other conclusions, though. Obviously, we still do have to take other people’s more authoritative, expert views into account, because it’s undeniable that they know more than us. Considering their deeper understanding will undoubtedly give us insight. But don’t equate knowledge or experience with infallibility; They may know more than you, but they are as human, and as fallible, as you and I are.

I keep learning that… being incredibly smart doesn’t really mean anything. Being incredibly smart doesn’t mean you’re always right or always come to the best conclusions. It doesn’t mean you never make logic leaps or fallacies, doesn’t mean you can see all sides of the issue. Being incredibly smart in one way doesn’t mean you’re incredibly smart in all ways.

Similarly, being an incredibly loving and caring person doesn’t really mean anything either; It doesn’t mean you’ll never hurt another person.

People, all people, are only human. They do what they can, they do what they think is right.  No matter how incredibly smart, well-educated, earnest and serious they are, they don’t have any magic answers.

This article, The Ugly Delusions of the Educated Conservative, builds on this idea that knowledge doesn’t always equate to credibility, and brings it a step further: contrary to what we might think, more eduction, more intelligence and more knowledge can actually make it more likely for you to hold inaccurate beliefs.

Why? because the smarter, more well educated and more knowledgable you are, the more confidence you tend to have in your own position. Confidence is fine, but it has a nasty habit of stepping over the line into arrogance, if you’re not careful. And arrogance loathes to admit that it’s wrong, which means, if you were wrong to begin with, you’ll probably stay that way.

Education systems all over the world tend to focus on intelligence of the students, and the knowledge they’re being fed. But intelligence and knowledge are a double-edged sword; They can bring you far, but they can bring you far in any direction.

Perhaps what the emphasis should be on instead is Open-mindedness and Critical Thinking; the ability to listen to consider other positions and to evaluate them. Only then can you be sure that knowledge and intelligence are constantly being checked and put back on track rather than veering off on one mistaken tangent, never to return.

While the article refers specifically to conservative republicans and climate change, I feel that it fits the religious as well, or maybe even more so. Wouldn’t the religious commit this crime more readily, for is that not the foundation of faith? You always operate within the faith, the possibility that your faith may be wrong is not an option. If belief in god is held as the foundation, the unquestionable, infallible truth, then all other knowledge that comes in will be twisted to fit that. As with the Republicans in the article, it’s not the supporting reasons that hold up the belief, it’s the belief that shapes the supporting reasons. And that’s the reverse of what it should be.

That said, the crime of being a ‘smart idiot’ (as the author terms it) is one ANYONE can easily make, once they forget to remember that their own opinions may just be incorrect, once they close their minds to all other positions but their own.

Here’s to helping each other make sure we don’t fall into the trap of being smart idiots.