When you shout into the abyss, does it do the limbo?

Hooray, it’s Monday.

That sentence is meant to have been delivered in a deadpan, sarcastic tone, but I realize that it’s difficult to convey such things well in print, so I decided to make it clear to you.  Everyone knows a joke is funnier when you explain it in detail afterwards, right?

Anyway, as usual, I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write about today; I’m stuck merely obeying the inscrutable exhortations of my soul, to paraphrase Calvin*.

Here’s something that popped into my awareness just now:  The little weather symbol—or moon phase symbol, maybe—on the tool bar of this computer in windows uses a highly stylized moon, which looks a little bit like a cookie with a very round bite taken out of it, with the “horns” of the crescent moon extending well past the midline of the disc.  It doesn’t look much at all like the real crescent moon.  If anything, it looks like a sun beginning to be eclipsed by another celestial body—perhaps a moon—that is slightly smaller in angular diameter than the star is, so that it can never be a complete eclipse.

It certainly doesn’t match the appearance of the actual crescent moon, because the dark part of an actual crescent moon is merely that portion of the moon that isn’t presently illuminated by the sun.  The sun’s “rays”, coming from so far away, are very close to parallel, so the shadow of the dark side of the moon is almost exactly half of the moon.  So the horns of the crescent moon cannot extend past the midline of the disc, or if at all past, negligibly so.

You would think that a place like Microsoft—I’m writing on a Windows-based computer—a technology company that relies on high-end scientific and technological advances for its products and services, would be able to keep on top of simple scientific and logical matters such as what a crescent moon really looks like.

Of course, I suppose there’s no requirement that one have a grasp of simple astronomy and geometry to design graphics for a computer system.  But if one is really trying to understand the world so one can get a functionally limitless number of things done, as opposed to learning by rote a highly limited set of skills to be able to do a particular job and only that job, then one should develop as broadly useful, internally consistent, a map of reality as one can.  At least, that’s the way I think of it.

Would you rather have a doctor who has memorized, by rote, every page of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, but only recalls it in the literal order and words of the textbook, so the doctor can only deal with the specific matters addressed therein…or would you rather have a doctor who understands, broadly and deeply, the matter contained in it, even if that doctor couldn’t quote a single part of it verbatim?

This is one of the reasons that in school, when you’re asked to summarize something that you’ve read, you’re asked to do so “in your own words”.  It’s not merely to prove that you have actually read the material.  It’s also to try to make you absorb it conceptually, so that you have a model in your brain of whatever ideas are being discussed, not merely the equivalent of a docx or pdf of the words.  It’s a useful skill, even if any particular bit of school reading is otherwise not broadly relevant to your life.

I suppose all this isn’t very deep or interesting to anyone but me, but this is my blog, so I can write what I want.  Maybe the process itself will help me**.  I seem to recall that studies have shown that any kind of talk therapy in general provides some improvement in people who have mood disorders, with some better than others but all providing some benefit.  I cannot cite the sources, but the idea seems plausible.  I think it’s that just having someone to talk to who is there to listen to you is beneficial, is “ego syntonic” as the saying goes***.

I’m not sure this can honestly be extrapolated to blogging.  It may be so, but one thing about therapy is that one actually has another person, listening and sometimes interacting, asking questions, probing, intervening more actively if there is danger, things like that.  Whereas with blogging, one is firing one’s words into the void and wondering if they are ever read, and if so if anyone thinks about them at all.  At times it can feel worse than futile, as if one were hollering into a canyon and not hearing one’s own words echo back, but only hearing echoes of derogatory laughter, as if the very abyss itself were deriding one.

Of course, on much of “social” media, the very abyss itself does tend to laugh at you or do worse than laugh.  But I’m not prominent enough to get that sort of response, and anyway, internet troglodytes are unlikely to make me feel worse about myself than I already do.  Which is not meant to imply that I don’t think I could ever feel worse about myself than I do.  I suspect self-opinion is an unbounded thing, more like the real number line than the absolute temperature scale; there is no lower limit.

I merely wish to say that the sort of things people say and do in comments and replies and tweets in trying to deride or “cancel” someone are more likely to make me hold them in contempt than to make me feel worse about myself.  Though they do often gradually erode what little confidence I have in humanity, which hurts my mood if not my self-image.

Seeing other people being so stupid so often doesn’t make me feel superior in any way, even by comparison.  It’s a very low bar to clear to be less idiotic than some people online; it’s frankly astonishing to know that there really are so many people who seem able to limbo under it.  That can be terribly disheartening.

Anyway, that’s enough for this Monday, the 8th of August in 2022.  I hope you all had restful weekends—at least more restful than mine—and that you have slept well and are energized and cautiously optimistic about the coming week.  I can at least live vicariously.

*The cartoon boy, not the religious “thinker”.

**Though I doubt it.

***Okay, it’s not a saying, it’s a psychological term, but the point doesn’t change.

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