Autodidact: self-taught


How to Be a Towering [Censored]

by V. L. Craven

I’m currently doing research for the novel I’m working on, the main theme is what all sorts of violence does to the people who try to prevent it by using it i.e. fighting for peace, beating the violent at their own game. So I’m reading books about how to manipulate people (manipulation is a type of violence, after all). The first step is letting go of any delightful morals tying you to not acting like a complete jerk. It’s clear sailing after that, my friends.

I’m having to look at these books as snapshots of the way the human psyche works because every few pages I find myself cursing out loud at the levels to which some people won’t sink to get what they want. A couple of the books I’m reading are by Robert Greene, who studied classical literature and it shows. He uses examples throughout philosophy, history and literature to show how a variety of tactics work to get whatever you want from anyone. It’s a review of the most conniving, scheming asshats in all history and how you, too, can be an asshat. Fascinating stuff.

Of course, if I’m reading one of these books in public I feel compelled to explain to anyone who notices that I’m doing research. I’m not in training for the Machiavelli Olympics, although I am reading The Prince, as well…

[This is from a previous blog. Original post date: 3 December 2007]


Cognitive Surplus

by V. L. Craven

What happens when people suddenly have a lot of time to think? Cognitive Surplus

It’s a thing I’ve been trying to control in my life for some time. I just didn’t know it had a name.

Basically, when people suddenly have time to think, they tend to waste that time. The amount of time humans spend watching television, fiddling with Wikipedia and reordering their Netflix queues tallies to an obscene amount of time that could be put to other use. Perhaps some use that would benefit humanity.

But that wouldn’t be fun. That would be like… work.


Other People Have Minds…Really

by V. L. Craven

Autistic people cannot understand that other people have different thoughts than they do. For example, if you put a ball under a box and ask an autistic child where a person who didn’t see the placement of the ball would think the ball was the child would say, “In the box. Because that’s where it is.”

This anecdote is usually met with bafflement by ‘normal’ people. I find that interesting because most people seem to have a difficult time understanding that other people have different experiences and therefore different knowledge from them. (Of course, this is only my personal experience of humanity. Perhaps everyone you know embraces and encourages diversity of thought.)

For example, recently a co-worker of my husband’s has hinted at wanting to socialize with me so she can ‘get the dirt’ on him. This assumes that most women enjoy gossiping and putting down the men in their lives. My husband’s co-worker is in her early twenties so I’m guessing that she hasn’t met many people like me–women who don’t go in for gossip and have nothing negative to say about their husbands and even if they did they wouldn’t rubbish their men to a new female acquaintance.

The concept of other people having different thoughts is evident when others presume you hold the same political views they do. This has happened to me many times–a person leans in and starts bashing on whoever they don’t like in the political race, expecting me to agree. In a way, that’s a compliment–most humans think they are intelligent, thoughtful, sophisticated people. They then believe that others who are intelligent will come to the same conclusions they have. Believing I agree with them means they hold me in high regard.

So that’s all to the good. What then becomes the problem is that when I explain that I don’t agree they feel compelled to argue or defend themselves. To most people, it’s not all right for other’s to disagree with them–dissent is interpreted as a personal attack. Up until a person says, “My belief is that I can punch you in the face whenever I’d like,” what that person believes isn’t a reflection on you. It’s not your job to change the minds of the people who disagree with you. Your blood pressure and sanity would benefit from spending time with people who hold similar views to you.

That said, it’s edifying to attempt to see the world the way others do, but many seem to fear that merely listening to another person’s opinions will magically make them change sides. If your beliefs are that tenuous then perhaps you’re not fully committed to them. Further, being a sentient being means continually thinking and being allowed to alter your opinions upon receiving additional information. There’s a tendency in the U.S. to call people who change their minds weak rather than thoughtful or circumspect. Americans want the fast food version of opinions–simple and easily digested. An explanation that requires more than one sentence is far, far too complicated.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Something that I work at is keeping in mind that other people’s beliefs are as valid to them as mine are to me. That and ‘different’ doesn’t mean ‘bad’. As I can be reactionary at times, this will be a life-long struggle, I think, but it is a worthy endeavour.

Of course, this is also my opinion. And would require arguing with those who disagree. And that’s where I have to practise what I preach. Bugger.


CBT Teaches Objectivity

by V. L. Craven

Last night, as I was transcribing notes from Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon I came across this:

[Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] CBT is a form of psychodynamic therapy–base on emotional and mental responses to external events, in the present and in childhood–that is tightly focused on objectives. … [The creator] Beck proposes that one’s thoughts about oneself are frequently destructive, and that by forcing the mind to think in certain ways one can actually change one’s reality–it’s a program that one of his collaborators has called “learned optimism.” He believes depression is the consequence of false logic, and that by correcting negative reasoning one may achieve better mental health. CBT teaches objectivity.

This is very much in line with Stoicism and Existentialism in that it relies not on external factors to change one’s reality, but relies on one’s own mind to alter (and therefore change) one’s reality.

Powered by WordPress