One Question, Forty Answers

People want to believe in something, even if it is false. No one knows enough to be completely right (or wrong) about anything. But, how do we judge? If we think of truth as a continuum, where answers are more right and less right, or more wrong or less wrong, compared to other answers. Then, the one mistake that we all make is that we don’t look for enough answers.

We want the answer that is right enough for our needs. But, maybe what we really need is more answers, more points of comparison. With more facets of truth at our disposal, perhaps we will gain a fuller appreciation for the elements of truth that are in each answer. For even the wrongest answer has some truth to it.

So, a modest proposal. Find more answers. Use those to refine your questions. But, never be satisifed with just one answer. Answers are a dime a dozen. Get a quarter to fifty cents worth. It’s worth the expense.

Related: A Day in the Park.

Jumping Rope

I bought a Heavy Muay Thai jump rope from Elite SRS. I’ve never jumped rope before. But, I had heard it is easier to learn with a heavier rope and I wanted more than a cardio workout. Normally, a jump rope is about a half (0.5) pound. A “heavy” rope is one (1) pound. This rope is a pound and a half (1.5) pounds. Using a High Intensity Interval Timer, I set the following:

  • 20 Work (seconds)
  • 20 Break (seconds)
  • 60 Rest (seconds [of rest between blocks])
  • 3 Intervals per block
  • X Blocks

The number of blocks is essentially the number of minutes you are jumping rope. For 3 minutes or 3 blocks, it takes a total of 10 minutes. My immediate goal is to work up to 10 minutes of jumping rope, and develop some kind of jump rope program for 2021.

Why jump rope? It’s inexpensive (<$20). It’s easy to carry. It can be done anywhere. It doesn’t take up much time. It is both a cardio and a whole body workout.

I’m only a few weeks in. So far, so good. Once I have more experience, I’ll share additional thoughts then, probably close to the end of the year and then try to do a year focused on jump rope as a primary form of exercise with some calisthenics thrown in.

Why Do We Talk to One Another?

Open Question: Why do we talk to one another?

“…To varying degrees, there is an uncrossable chasm between you and everybody you care about.

There are two ways you can interpret this. One is the depressing route: to believe that your friends are not really your friends and that you don’t really know them. That you will never really know anybody at all. Or you can take the more optimistic route: it’s not that you know your friends less than you thought you did, it’s that you know strangers more. You don’t need to have an established relationship to help someone. Even transient moments have meaning.

This second route is the one my colleagues and I take every time we pick up the phone. Conversations on a phone helpline are different from normal conversations in two ways: we make few assumptions about the caller or their background, and our goal is for the caller to reach a better emotional state than when the conversation started.”

-Natalia Dashan, “Working on a suicide helpline changed how I talk to everyone.” November 9, 2020.

I find this quote interesting. For me, conversations are about ideas. I talk to people because I want people to know something, or I want to know something. However, I generally view people’s emotional states as their own problem. Managing our emotions is, arguably, one of the defining features that separate human beings from animals.

On the other hand, I recognize that my view is certainly the minority, if not an outlier. Most people’s conversations is primarily emotional in nature, where they are talking about their feelings and want other people to talk about theirs.

My experience is shaped by my relationships with people with Cluster B personality disorders. I have many posts on this topic, e.g., A Narcissist’s Prayer, Hoodoos, Toxic People, Psychic Vampires, Sucking Black Holes, The Unhappy & The Unlucky, etc. The common tactic of people that manipulate others is to get them to talk about themselves, and then, they use this information to their advantage.

In my view, trying to manipulate someone else’s emotional state, even if you are doing so with their benefit in mind, is still manipulation. In certain circumstances, such as when you are working on a suicide help line, this may be appropriate behavior. People are calling in crisis are because they need help. You are there to help them. So, these kinds of interactions are kind of built in.

However, I’m not as comfortable thinking about helping the people in my life this way. This is the kind of behavior that underlies the paternalism that most parents engage in with their children, that what they are doing is for their own good. However, it is often “their own good” from our perspective and not theirs, which can often not be their good but our own. How is this different from the behavior of a Cluster B personality? I’m not sure it is different.

Yet, on the other hand, creating environments where people can grow and be supported emotionally is something most of us want. Individually, we can increase our vocabulary that helps us describe, understand and experience our feelings, using tools such as The Feeling Wheel or the guidebook, “Staying With Feelings“. But, maybe one piece I’ve been missing is that this kind of development ultimately has to be processed through our relationship with others.

The rub, and the thing that is very much not clear to me, is how do you make sure that what you are doing is about getting to a better emotional state for everyone rather than getting a better emotional state for ourselves or manipulating other people’s emotions for some other ends. I find this question difficult, one where I have thought it is best to let people deal with their own emotions and try not to be involved with it. But, I’m thinking, in this moment, that this is naive. Every conversation has an emotional component, and we cannot pretend that we don’t have, at least, some responsibility for the kind of emotional environment we are creating, both for ourselves and others.

I don’t have any answers here. However, I do think these are good questions worth much deeper exploration.

Exhibit A for Legal Realism: I’m Not in Washington Defense

“‘Defendants maintain that because the state constitution defines Washington’s northern boundary in relevant part as the 49th parallel, the State does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them for crimes committed south of the international border between the United States and Canada, but north of the 49th parallel as currently located.’

Perhaps not wanting to create ‘a nebulous strip of territory along the border that was part of the United States, but not part of Washington,’ in the words of the AP, the Court ruled against the defendants. (Per the decision, ‘the political and conceptual location of the international and state borders was the same when Washington was admitted as a state, and remains so.’)  But don’t write off their case as entirely frivolous. One of the nine members of the Court, Justice Richard Sanders, dissented, arguing that ‘this case is easier than pi. The 49th parallel can be located to the decimal. If that term is ambiguous, the language of law is no more than sand shaped into castles at the arbitrary whim of he (or she) who wears the black gown.'”

-Dan Lewis, “I’m Not in Washington Defense.” November 18, 2020.

The Extraordinary Intruding on the Ordinary

The only thing differentiating the extraordinary from the ordinary is frequency, quantity and volume. If you were a Sherpa climbing Mt. Everest every day, helping tourists get their one minute at the pinnacle. What would the value of summiting Everest be to you?

I remember reading Bernard Moitessier’s “The Long Way”, where he describes being in a Round the World Race for single handed yachts. This was a man who was leading the race, had all the difficult sections behind him, and instead of coming back through the Atlantic Ocean to Europe to claim his prize, he kept circling the globe in his vessel.

What kind of person decides to enter a race to sail a yacht, by themselves, around the world to show that it can be done? What kind of person, in the middle of this race, decides that the race is less important than the journey of the race, and then continues on for the experience and abandons the race?

It’s an extraordinary moment. But, in that moment, he was living in the ordinary, the repetitive existence of sailing in the open sea. The extrapordinary intruding on the ordinary, and vice versa.

Reflect on this long enough, and the inevitable conclusion, at least it seems to me, is that there is no difference. That extraordinary moments are no different from ordinary ones, the difference is the story that we end up telling to ourselves.

Ultimately, we can decide which story to tell. If you want your life to be extraordinary, then change your story to an extraordinary one. Everyone wants to believe that they are unique. That they matter. And they only have to decide which story to tell that highlights that narrative.

But, perhaps, therein lies an extraordinary opportunity. To identify with the ordinary, to continue on as not the first person to accomplish some feat, but in the commonplace repetition that makes up the bulk of our lives and that truly defines our experience.

Is being an astronaut more extraordinary than being a sailor of the high seas? The answer depends on the perspective of the person judging, usually from within the context of the historical moment. Two hundred years from now, assuming humanity doesn’t destroy itself in the interm, there will be far fewer sailors than astronauts. And, the opposite, two hundred years ago, the idea of an astronaut was largely unthinkable. Does this shift change the experience? Is one truly less or more extraordinary than the other?


“‘You don’t believe it because it sounds like a speaker, but no one else can hear it…it’s supporting you and you’re in the middle of everything. It’s happening around you.’

By changing a setting, the sound can follow a listener around when they move their head. It’s also possible to move out of the beam’s path and hear nothing at all, which creates a surreal experience.

‘You don’t need to tell the device where you are. It’s not streaming to one exact place,’ Wallwater said.

‘It follows you wherever you go. So it’s personally for you — follows you, plays what you want inside your head.'”

-Louise Dixon, “New device puts music in your head — no headphones required.” AP. November 12, 2020

What could possibly go wrong? Here’s the clue, “…it’s personally for you — follows you, plays what [someone else wants] inside your head.” Want to guess the power of this kind of suggestibility on crowds, targeted advertising, etc.? Coming soon, a device that blocks this device, available for a moderate fee.

Alain’s Propos

“”Years later he recalled how he wrote the propos: each evening, he would sit down before two sheets of paper, knowing before he started that the last line would be written at the bottom of the second page., and that within the confines of those two pages he would write a piece which, if he succeeded, would have ‘movement, air and elevation.’ He also knew that he would make no corrections, erasures or changes; since the piece would be published the next day, he did not have the niceties of anguished composition. He saw the bottom of the page approach, and ruthlessly suppressed every idea that was not germane to his theme. ‘The final barrier approached as other ideas began to appear; they were repressed; but, and I don’t know how, they succeeded in filling out the principle idea…The result was a kind of poetry and strength.”

-Robert D. Cottrell, Introduction to Alain on Happiness by Alain. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

I’ve mentioned Alain‘s writing over the years in this blog. I greatly admire his short essays that were composed in this way. I have thought that it might serve as an interesting experiment to try his method, which seems well-adapted to the blog format.

It also taps into the Foucault’s hupomnemata, where the act of writing for yourself or others serves as a vehicle for transformation. Technically, it’s a memory aid. In our writing, we are marking out pathways of thought. These pathways help us transverse certain areas quickly. But, it is also how we make ways of thinking our own, a shaping of ourselves using the collective thoughts of humanity.

So, the goal here is to take a quote or some idea and write a short little essay, and do it daily, more or less. I’m going to try to do that through the end of 2020 and see how it goes.

Apocalypse is the Suburb of Utopia

The land of the possible has many paths, and we can know only one. Everything’s stochastic and impermanent. Our lives are packed with luggage, the vast majority of which would be best left at the side of the road.

Utopia is a place with kind and reasonable people using coalition-building, science and determination to solve their problems. How many of us can hope to live there? Grass so much greener than where we live, day-to-day.

But, even utopia rests on the cliff-edge and can easily change into apocalypse. Change some of the underlying structure. Change some of the personnel. Change the culture. And apocalypse will come like a fell wind pushing you from safety to calamity.

Life is subtle, glacial shifts that happen as we migrate from the youthful land of promise to one defined by limits: physical, of our historical moment, or of imagination. No one escapes transformation nor comes out alive.

Our destiny, in part is to confront what we fear. Alone, insane, destitute and defeated. The catastrophe we think is going to happen has already happened, in our heart-mind. Truth is secondary to stories and opinion, a half-truth of unengaged labels, objectification and prejudices. Reduced common sense and gullibility are the red flags of alienation. The stink of fear and cries on the unsympathetic ear. But, these are also the tools of our survival.

But, even among the horror, beauty. Holding faith with the sun in a sunless place. Seeking perfection in the flawed. Loving the broken. It is our stories, our half-truths and deluded fictions that redeem the world.

Forgive me, dear friends. I was neither as strong, capable, or honorable as I wished. A mixed dish, contrary flavors, but I can be no more than myself. Why should I think you would be any different, even though I desparately wished it so? Maybe if I wished enough, I could make it so, with the strength of my belief.

Fakokta Dazibaos

Start with a basic principle:
yauh peng, yauh leng - in English,
inexpensive and beautiful. Empty,
alone, a blank canvas five inches 
across, bounded by ears, separate
yet susceptible, social mind virus. 

Catastrophe has already happened,
from one view. Another angle, sees
happiness, created whole-cloth out
of disposition and a clean heart.
Sense, nonsense and in between, a line 
can't be right, left and/or wrong.

Layers, subcultures of lost, brittle 
men coalesce into reply guys, wienie 
wagers, and boojeymean lodged in the 
Callipygian cheeks of society, coprolite, 
surplus to requirements, in places
normalized for deficits of wonder. 

Covering what stinks, habitual
evidence of a lunch, long past
Nature's Shitness Protection Program
revealing God in what she's not, 
and what she is may be just another
evaporated, dehydrated, Stone being.

An unmagicked, McJunk world, three ring 
shit show, exponential, terrible, 
uncapable of bearing the intimacy of
scrutiny. Changez vos amis, but there
can be no separate survival or
 adjusted destinies. Truth comes last. 

Celebrating Our Differences

After reading a bit about the Anne Hathaway kerfuffle on limb differences portrayed in The Witches, I find myself of two minds.

On one hand, we are all imperfect, a work in progress. When we do something stupid from a perspective we haven’t considered, it’s good and useful to have our myopic perspective pointed out.

We need to work to expand our perspective to the point that we can appreciate, even celebrate, our differences. The effort to train our minds to transcend our limited experience is hard work, but it is worth doing.

On the other hand, there is something about the effusive apology that I think makes this work harder. At some level, there’s a judgmental element involved, that people should have already incorporated some perspective and they are somehow less than because they haven’t. I think it is important to take people as they are and look for ways we, together, can move things in a positive direction.

No one has all the answers. No one is inherently better than anyone else. We all have something valuable that the world desperately needs. Like not being sensitive to limb difference, when we judge people rather than look for the good in their outlook, we are being a different variety of myopuc. In the process, we lose the opportunity to expand our own perspective. In turn, you are also cutting them off from the good you are bringing to the table.

As the Mr. Rodgers saying goes, people are only open to change when engaged with someone that loves them. There are two religions, being right or loving someone. It’s impossible to be a member of both of these churches at the same time.