the average person

On a tree, ripe apples will have an average size.

In a given society, we have a notion of the average person.

These two concepts are not as closely related as one might think, because humans have rather profound volition about the kind of person they want to be, whether or not they think about it in those terms(or at all).

Given the consequences of nonconformity, I suspect there’s an artificially steep bell-curve in the middle; people on the fringes of various attributes, who can, will generally pull themselves towards the center to better match those around them.

And of course, the notion of normal varies tremendously over time and place, so the kind of person who fits effortlessly into the local cultural norm is not necessarily very “normal” at all, compared to whatever genotypical norm humans in an area express.

So if we’re in the business of thinking about people and society, we should not get too wrapped up in the notion that the average person is, in any way, the sort of pure average you think of in non-sentient entities.

If, further, we actually want civilization to succeed, and we believe that division of labor is an important part of that, we should really, really try not to interpret and execute on data in such a way that we build a society expressly for only one kind of person: the kind of person who happens to be, or who can accurately mimic, the local norm.

houses and lives

When I owned a house, I did a lot of work on it.

I realized after a while that, while I could figure everything out eventually by myself, the first time I did a particular repair or install, I generally made a mess of it.

So, either I had to buy enough materials to do it multiple times, which I couldn’t afford, or I had to live with the mess I made.

I have found that life is exactly like that, except that do-overs are not an option.  You simply must live with the messes you make, in the process of figuring out how to live.

Most of what you learn is no longer applicable.  Not for you, because your situation changes, and not even for anyone else, because the world changes so fast these days.

The takeaway lesson is this: don’t get born, and don’t force anyone else to get born 😉

problems

I’ve traveled a lot lately, and I see the same looks of puzzlement on the faces of many quiet, thoughtful looking people, looking around at the teeming masses of humanity around us in airports and hotels: “How did we fall so far, so fast?”

I have my theories as to the cause, but sharing them would only get me in trouble, and I don’t think the problems are solvable, other than through the natural rise and fall of civilizations, so, to cut to the chase… what can we do about it right now?

We have to keep in mind that, despite outward appearances, thoughtful, empathetic people are still being born all the time, even in places like the United States, and the key difficulty is gathering them, and protecting them from everyone else.

While the real gems of people are probably increasingly hard to find, we should not overestimate the difficulty of finding subtle ways of filtering for people with at least basic intelligence and empathy.  Some examples:

  1. Can you follow a simple written instruction, such as “write this number down, and bring it to station A”?
  2. Can you show up at a given location roughly on time, given a few days notice?
  3. Are you capable of differentiating a customer service worker from the corporate entity they are working for?
  4. Do you take out your frustration on people who have nothing to do with the problems you are encountering?

It takes a certain amount of intelligence to empathize with those you can’t relate to, and, in the context of an interdependent society in general, that’s an extremely important aspect of empathy.

Humans devolve by default; it takes lots of suffering to make a civilization that shines.

Even then, even in that best case where you belong to a beautiful civilization… that shine does not belong to you, but to the pain that collectively made you.

To lay claim to it, is to forfeit it.

do anything

The old exercise in determining what you really want to do is, “If you could do anything, what would you do?”

That has never worked too well for me, but with one proviso, it seems to work better:

“If you died and remained as an immortal ghost, which could still touch things and be touched if you desire, then what would you do?”

Particularly as the awareness of the limitations of our lifespan begins to intrude on our consciousness… and as we come to realize how long our previous endeavors actually took to come into fruition, we begin to discard things that take too long.

But time really isn’t that precious.  It can’t be.

How can we worry about what comes after death, while remaining unconcerned about what things were like before conception?

Other than work, nothing needs to get done.  None of this will remain.  Everything is temporary, and everyone and everything is always changing.

Living is okay while it’s okay, and the desire to start fresh is balanced by the enjoyment and peace that comes with our hard-won understanding of life.

There is plenty of time, in the calm waters out past the tumultuous breaking waves of youth.

Probably best to do lots of things, and not think too much about life itself.  Life will take care of wrapping things up, all by itself.

In the meantime… just keep playing…

social vs. actual reality

Actual reality is always there, if you think for yourself.

Social reality tends to veer off in a predictable vector from actual reality, within a given social space.

Only nature forces corrections.  Capitalism has been so effective not because it’s so wonderful at managing production, but because it’s very good at continuously allowing nature to correct the system, though it still lags at times.

Social reality tends to stagnate, and entrench itself in predictable patterns, while actual reality tracks about in a smooth fashion.

This is not to say that social reality is irrelevant; it is merely one aspect of the overall framework of human life.  Much like a heat engine derives work from a thermal gradient, one can derive many things by interposing one’s machinations between social and actual reality.

Or, having abandoned personal ambition, and being weak and vulnerable in social situations, it is simply necessary to know where the herd is going before it decides to go there, lest one be trampled, without the slightest care or concern, beneath its weighty hooves.

people and clouds

When I was trying to figure out where stratospheric balloons would fly, I learned that the atmosphere was an incredibly complex system, even though it was driven by just a few basic components: air, water, and heat.

Rising, expanding parcels of air cool off.  Water vapor condenses when it gets cold, and precipitates.  The sun heating the earth stirs up the atmosphere like water in a cooking pan, from surface temperature, down to about -60F.  Heating, cooling, rising, falling, evaporating, condensing, expanding, contracting… churning, chaotically, seemingly forever.

People are like that, too.  They have only a few basic emotional prime movers, but from those, all manner of human drama plays out around us; loving and hating, seeking and avoiding, fighting and mating, testosterone and estrogen… we’re not so complicated, at our core.

At some point, I realized that understanding people, in a scientific manner, is probably the worst thing a person can possibly do to itself.  It’s quite maddening, in fact, when you realize you’re merely and inescapably a puppet; a pile of flesh and bone which serves only to propagate the code stored in the nucleus of every squishy cell of its body, which can neither escape the fundamental temperament of that code, or the nature of the environment used for calibration during its boot-up sequence.

Perhaps that’s why so many thinkers rebel against the very notion of being human, and aspire to become pure spirits; thought devoid of the base interference of mammalian emotion.

Maybe because it seems base.  Or maybe because it hurts too much to feel when you understand how ridiculous your feelings are, and you understand nature’s true intent behind those feelings.

Maybe that’s one fundamental difference between the sky and life: the clouds never have an agenda, but life always does, though it’s a very simple one:

persist.

casual conversation

I have a test for you!

I will start with a statement, which you must come up with an appropriate response for in less than a second, otherwise you fail.

The statement will not lend itself to any particular response, and may or may not be a question.  If the statement is a question, there’s only a slim chance that the correct response is to actually answer the question.

For any statement I give you, there’s a particular set of acceptable responses, but you don’t know what they are.    If you choose outside of that set of responses, you fail.

Should you answer correctly, I’ll give you another statement, and you must again respond correctly, within the 1 second time limit, or you fail.

The test ends once you fail.  You can’t pass, because I’ll keep giving you questions until you fail.

If anything, you’ll lose more points the further you get before you fail, because, if you answered all the preceding questions correctly, then failing a statement further on means you deliberately chose to be obstreperous, and are not merely incompetent(the only two possibilities).

Really, the best outcome for you is to pretend you didn’t hear my statement, in which case you may escape a bad grade on a technicality, though, the incident will probably come back to haunt you, anyways.