Play is the essence of learning and creativity. The phenomenon of censoring and thresholding – sensible when one has attained a level of expertise in a subject – gets in the way of learning in a new domain. Why children learn faster is that going into a new activity, they have no threshold. They draw and write whatever they think of, while an adult throws away ten germs of ideas before they write a single word. Sometimes, the best way to get better is by doing lots.
It’s hard to recall states of mind without a prompt. Even when we have a specific memory cupped on the stage inside our head, we fall short of recreating the mind of five years ago. Our minds update, one part at a time, until it is completely renewed, and yet the change is imperceptible, as we feel we are the same person day-to-day.
I’m reminded this every time I read my diary again. I write in stream-of-consciousness; that helps. Had someone just told me to remember the memory, I would have remembered the memory, but not the me that was experiencing it.
The flow of thoughts is simply different from the way my thoughts flow now. There are millions of parameters that make people who they are. It’s impossible to capture the way a person is at a moment in time. There’s a huge gap between the fidelity with which I can see who I was, between just trying to remember, and reading my old diary entries. I can only imagine what the gap is between what the entry captures, and who I actually was.
To me, this is the most valuable thing about keeping a journal. Not the record of events – but to record, as much as possible, a state of mind. Writing is the closest thing we have. Sometimes, words are worth much more than pictures, because in a picture all you see is a smile, not the thoughts behind that smile.
What’s it mean to be socially adept, or well-adjusted socially? I’ve looked upon the word “social” with disdain, but maybe my lack of value-belief in it is because the “social” has been translated badly into my personal vocabulary. It’s another word like feminism or religion or altruism that means different things in the ideal and the institutionalized sense.
Someone was handing out brochures outside the student center. I took it as an automatic gesture, and was about to put it away, when I glanced at it. It was blank. I don’t like talking with people selling me stuff, but curiosity overcame my annoyance at having something pressed upon me, so I walked back and said, “Excuse me, this one is – ” and I saw that all the brochures he was holding were blank. He was grinning. I was suddenly afraid – anyone handing out blank brochures with a grin must be mentally ill, his smile could at any time become violent, and I should get out of his way. Before I did, though, he put his finger on the blank brochure, and said, “There’s something you want to do that you’re not doing, but I can’t tell you what it is.”
There are two kinds of humor and laughter. It’s similar to how feedback can be positive or negative.
- Positive laughter opens people up to new possibilities. Good stand-up comedians make jokes that expose stereotypes about race, sex, religion, etc. and in so doing make people think, “isn’t it stupid the way things are?” and “it doesn’t have to be this way.” It’s also the laughter between friends, building positive Hebbian connections in your neurons, “I want to do this again.”
- Negative laughter closes off possibilities. People laugh at someone who fails – and each such laugh is a censor that will prevent themselves from trying new things. Laughter in the face of an idea that someone proposes is a veto without an explanation. (And if a person introduces an idea with a laugh, it’s social insurance against the possible drop in reputation if others find it stupid, at the cost of the idea actually being considered seriously.) The quips that people in different fields make with each other are not so innocuous if they’re saying, “Your values are different from us, and I don’t think they’re as valuable as ours.”
I want to make sure that every time I laugh, it’s positive laughter.
I feel that a lot can be solved if people have the right attitude (meta-moral sense?). Trying to understand each other. Rather than having a foundational goal to draw a dividing line between oneself and others (it’s amazing how many actions can be traced back to that “tribal” motivation), seek to understand each other and both better your own life and other people’s. I think if you replace these foundational goals, the justification for certain actions melts away.
A lot of it comes back to what Karen Armstrong said about jihadists. If people feel their belief system, their values, their community is being threatened, they will go on the offensive. It’s human nature. Someone has to break the cycle, and try to understand the other side even as the other side is throwing words, or worse, sticks and stones, at you.
One place where this is especially true is in sexuality. On the one side are conservative people (sex after marriage, man and woman, etc.). On another are LBGTP people (P=poly), or people who promote a more open sexual culture (a la Stranger in a Strange Land). And there are people who participate in the “casual hookup culture.” Of course, there are many shades of gray in between.
So let’s look at the web of threats. LBGTP people are threatened by the conservative people—it’s hard to talk with someone who thinks it’s a moral sin (go to hell) for you to have the sexual identity that you have! Conservative people are threatened by the increasing number of people who participate in the “casual hookup culture.” It’s been flipped from 100 years ago, that believing in sex after marriage can actually make you part of the minority, and disparagingly called a “prude.” They feel threatened by sexual jokes that people make to them, and lewd behavior in public. (Brave New World shows this by taking it to the extreme: what if you are the ONLY person who believes in committed monogamy?) (And it’s complicated: people will claim they have the freedom to do what they want, which is true, but with freedom comes the responsibility to use the freedom wisely. Just because you *can* eat steak in front of a vegetarian, doesn’t mean you should.) The people who participate in casual hookup culture feel threatened by the conservatives: this is the kind of prudishness that they’re trying to escape. The conservatives feel threatened by the LBGTP people because they go against religious teachings. This last link is flawed though—if these conservative people remove their “tribal” motivation and allow their opinion to be changed, then it’s pretty clear that what they are rebelling against is the loss of family values—where freed from the Bible’s word, family should have a more abstract interpretation as a cohesive, symbiotic community unit—and then they should look for evidence for or against LBGTP relationships meeting that criteria (and the evidence is overwhelming for the fact that they can meet that criteria).
I think we need to draw the line between what a person believes in, and what’s universal. What’s universal here is wanting to be happy, have some kind of stability in life, having good relationships with other people, protecting from disease (which is actually very important here—and a fact that has been disguised. rather than standing on its own as a goal, it’s been cited as evidence of immorality of sex. The causality is screwed up here: immorality does not cause disease!). Trying to tack more than this starts to skew this universal picture towards one’s own view. There’s the kind of person who wants to follow the traditional path of marriage, and the kind who will have flings with a lot of people. (The problem with SiaSL is that it seemed to suggest that the second option is strictly better for every person, which is untrue.) Each person has their own personal truths, but some truths are better than others. The best that these different groups can do is not to impose their worldview on each other, but to explain to people what is it that their way of life offers, to try and talk to people about the link between the universal things that they want (see above) and the sexual life that they choose. Imagine them next to each other in an activities fair. The conservative group talks about how abstinence helps one develop a strong moral fiber in the sense of “delayed gratification” being a general helpful quality to nurture in one’s life, attach more weight and meaning to one’s actions, etc. (I personally believe in sex after marriage *for myself*, and these are the terms I think in, not religious commandments.) The liberal group talks about how sexuality can be an important part of your identity as a human being, how it can be a pleasurable and healthy part of your life, etc. And what I mean by “some truths are better than others,” is that anyone can declare that they’re doing is “right, you got a problem with that?” but if you haven’t thought through these issues, and you leave behind a trail of broken hearts and find your life empty, then chances are that you should have thought things over more. I find that often the most mature views on sexuality come from the LBGTP community, just because they have had to grapple with these issues while most other people just shove them under the rug (ex. poly people talk about things like jealousy and commitment because they have to, while mono people can often have trouble even starting the conversation on these topics).
A loose collection of thoughts.
I think that religion and education are very similar in many respects, in particular in the flaws of the established system of religion and education. It isn’t an inherent problem but rather often-found flaws in the established systems that exist today.