Guest Blogging

A few weeks ago I was talking with Jeffrey James over at Lifeincharge.com, and we decided it would be fun to write a post for eachother’s blogs.  The article I wrote just got posted today (http://lifeincharge.com/motivation-how-to-accomplish-things/) and on Wednesday I’ll post the piece of flash fiction that he wrote for this blog here.  Gotta love collaborating in the blogosphere… Check it out!

-W.A.

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The Sonnet of Fire

I have a fire, it burns inside me

And the minions of my self take their warmth

In bushels, from this tossed fiery sea

Thus enlivened with such blood, they go forth

_

I was cold till it was there.  Dead.  Asleep

In emptiness unknown, oblivion

But something new was placed deep inside me

While raging storm battles went crashing on

_

I touch another’s flame, great pleasure true

I ask him when he found his own fire made

He says he made his own, and I, mine too

Madness, but I can see his heart is swayed

_

Clearly our fires were built, Reason rules

You see, inside, we are men without tools

Dark

Dark

I’m not much for that feel

Got a lyric in my mouth and an ache that doesn’t heal

It’s ingested

Illegitimately protested

I’ll be arrested for standing to attest that

The world’s gone crazy and I’m watching it burn

Put the puzzle in their hands but the people never learn

I’ve got a ticket out of here but my flight’s been delayed

So I’m stranded waiting here and the sick and the depraved

Call it normal

But why is normal good?

Single moms and homeless make up my neighborhood

It gets me upset but I’m nobody’s judge

Just a spectator of the planet of a people who never budge

 

If I have to watch and stay afloat in this tide

I’d like to have you with me holding on at my side

See, ‘cuz you’re stuck here too

Our flights are close in time

If we’ve got to watch it burn I’d like you at my side

 

Brigades

Bring out the buckets and the blades

Got no other option than to fight against the blaze

Backup’s on the way but won’t be ending till it’s here

Holding back the raging tide, holding back the creeping tear

The world’s gone crazy and I’m watching it burn

We’ve run the course in circles, won’t the people ever learn?

Some will get out while others will claim

That there’s nothing wrong with courting fire, famine, and flame

Our flights are delayed

Come and sit with me a while

If we’ve got to go out

May as well go in style.

Knowing vs. Applying

I know all sorts of things I don’t do.  I know that I should floss, but I don’t.  I know that memorizing poems and bits of scripture will help my total memory, but I haven’t done that in a while.  More importantly, there are all sorts of pitfalls and shortcomings general to humanity, to which there are solutions, but I find myself not applying my knowledge.

Let me explain: I very recently had breakfast with a friend of mine.  We’ve begun meeting up every once in a blue moon just to talk about life, and how we’re learning and growing, what’s going on, etc.  At breakfast, he asked me if I could give him a sort of comprehensive, condensed story of my life with an emphasis on the hard things- the struggles, the hardships, and what has defined me as a person.  After thinking a bit and getting through it he said the most interesting thing to me.  In something of a palm to face moment for me, he, in the most unassuming manner, pointed out that just about everything I had said was due to external difficulty and circumstances, and very little about internal difficulty, or problems stemming from myself and, not the environment.

Dang!

I know all about the Actor Observer Effect.  I aced Advanced Placement Psychology back in high school.  I got the highest possible grade on the AP test.  I know that people have this irrational manner of thinking where they attribute the problems of others to defects in character, whereas they attribute their own problems as due to circumstance.  My father has a Master’s in this sort of thing, and we’ve talked about psychology many a time.  Dang!

The moment he mentioned the high degree of externalities in my story I had to groan.  I was doing the same thing.  It’s probably even worse, because I’m aware of the phenomenon.

It’s amazing to me how (if I may dare to say) we are such hypocrites.  I’m not talking about Vegetarians or Christians or Buddhists or Democrats or Republicans or any other specific group of people- I’m just talking about people.  We have certain convictions.  We have standards and beliefs.  We have knowledge- and then we act contrary to it.

I don’t think this is something we should give into, but in some senses it’s inescapable.  I’m not going to apply all of my knowledge, and I’m not always going to act in accordance with what I believe.  I should!  And I definitely should try, as should you (unless you believe that clubbing baby seals is a great pastime), but the emotion that this realization should evoke is compassion.  Empathy.

See, it’s really easy to judge other people.  “Don’t they know this?  How could they fall for that?  They’re so stupid.”  Are they stupid?  Maybe.  But then again, so are you.  So am I.  What could be dumber than having the right answer and then doing something different?  A spade is still a spade, and if a friend is doing something harmful, dangerous, or just plain dumb, I think we should still call each other out on it.  But when we do, we should remember that we fall prey to the same thing, even if the way we fall to it looks a little different.

If you’re reading this right now, don’t worry- I know that you’re the exception.  It’s just you and me in this world of crazy people, right?

 

 

 

*WARNING: The last two sentences of this post contain massive amounts of sarcasm.  If you are nursing, pregnant, under three feet tall, or extremely sensitive, these lines should be avoided at all costs.  Thank you.

“They’ve Done Studies”

I’m sure you’ve experienced it, just as I have.  Frankly I imagine you’ve been guilty of it, just as I have.  You’re having a conversation with someone, a friendly debate, perhaps, and then they pull out the trump card.  “They’ve done studies.”  All of the sudden your momentum is lost.  Your eloquent, persuasive words die on your lips.  The heavens open up above your opponent and he receives the philosophical victory, every good point you’ve previously made now null and void.  “Why did ‘they’ have to do ‘studies’?” you cry.

In all seriousness, this is a problem in our culture.  Raising the flag of anonymous studies (that just so happen to prove your point perfectly) garners much more support than it deserves.  Or, similarly, people will often employ another tactic: the random statistic of dubious origin.  (83.476592% of statistics are made up on the spot, right?)

There are several problems with this trend, the first being that of authority.  Claiming “they’ve done studies” without giving any real information about the study is not an empirical claim.  It is an appeal to authority.  And more often than not, who are people appealing to when they cite “studies”?  Anonymous.  Boy, that anonymous sure has been right about a lot of things.  We’d better accept his opinion without any critical thinking.  It’s no different from someone saying “You should believe me because someone really smart agrees with me.”  “Who?”  “I don’t know.  Somebody smart.”

Appealing to authority without providing the authority is as ridiculous a tactic as it seems.  Let’s stop encouraging it.

The second problem I see is that we uphold these various studies because… we’ve carefully examined the parameters, metrics, assumptions, procedures, and underlying philosophies behind them and we’ve come to the conclusion that they are logically sound?  No, not so much.  Usually our reasoning is more along the lines of, “Look!  Those guys in white coats agree with us!”  And unfortunately, that’s usually where it ends.

My point in this second problem is just to say this: though most are probably valid, there are a lot of bad studies out there.  (Even among “studies” that actually exist and have taken place.)  A logical progression is only as good as the givens it starts from.  What assumptions were made at the beginning of the experiment?  Is putting this theory to the test in a laboratory setting going to affect what happens?  What about observer bias?   And on and on and on.  Scientists, unfortunately, are not infallible.  So let’s not be intimidated by the letters following their names, and let’s look into their methods.

Finally, one of my biggest complaints with this trend is this: when claiming “they’ve done studies”, common sense often goes flying out of the window.  For example: I once had a conversation in the blogosphere about the natural state of man.  Fall where you like on the issue, persuading you here is not my intent.  I mentioned the selfishness of children in this debate.  The first words out of a child’s mouth are never “Thank you”, as Tim Chaddick once pointed out.  A child has to be taught to share, but he is born knowing how to take.

My counterpart in the debate told me that I was wrong.  They’ve done studies.  (uh oh)  To his credit he found a link to an article about the study he was referencing and posted it.  That is where a lot of people stop.  Many times, I’ve probably stopped there.  “Darn.  He has a link.  It must be a valid point.”  Luckily, I went and read the parameters of the study, as reported by this article.  The scientists claimed that babies are not selfish because they showed different babies videos of other babies sharing a toy and not sharing a toy.  How did they measure selfishness from this, you may ask.  By counting the number of times the baby blinked while watching.  I kid you not.  The babies didn’t blink enough, so they’re not selfish.  That “whooshing” sound you hear is common sense being thrown out of the window.

We’ve talked about the limitations of science on this blog before (Specifically, here) and it bears repeating.  Science is not able to measure everything, much to the chagrin of reductionist materialists everywhere (that’s just fancy wording for ‘people who think that every single concept, feeling, object, and idea in the universe is explainable through and caused by subatomic particles in motion).  Science is amazing.  It has given us innumerable blessings.  It can’t explain everything.  Let’s not be so quick to part with common sense because “they’ve done studies.”  Next time someone tries to pawn this trump card off on you, ask them who performed the study, and more importantly, who funded the study?  Ask them where you can read the study yourself so you can see what measurements they took , and how they took them.  And on and on and on.  If the study is a) real and b) valid, then you’ll have learned some valuable information in your research.

You all should take my word on this.  83.476592% of people who do go on to lead better lives.  They’ve done studies.