Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and another weekly edition of my blog. Also, welcome to November of 2020, which—like other Novembers in leap years—is a time of some turbulence in the US. I will make no further comment here about the specifics of that, however; enough, and probably far too much, has been said and is being said about it by others.
I don’t have much new to report today, so this posting may be brief…though, I often say this at the start and end up running off at the word processor nevertheless, whether or not I really have anything of substance to say. This seems to be a common human tendency, and I am not immune to it.
Yesterday, I recorded one of my “audio blogs”, which I guess could be called a podcast of sorts*, as a follow-up to the post I wrote in Iterations of Zero a little over a week ago. However, when I started to edit it, I soon lost interest. It meandered too much, and there was too much required editing of breath sounds, of “ums”, of coughs, and especially of “but…”s, which I appear to use far too often to preface a new thought or tangent.
Maybe I was just not in a sound-editing mood, and if I come back to it, I’ll feel more sanguine. I also am not sure whether anyone even listens to such things, anyway, even if I keep them short. (Any feedback from my readers, or listeners, or whatever, would be helpful in guiding my future decisions about such things.) For now, though, I think I’m going to put that on hold. Unfortunately, writing new, additional posts is hard to work into my schedule, though writing is more natural to me than speaking. I’m just pretty exhausted most days, as it is, and adding new things to my schedule feels like a herculean undertaking.
Sorry to be a downer. I’m sure it’s a blog truism that more people will read posts that are upbeat and cheerful-seeming than otherwise, just as in real life people gravitate more to those who seem to be positive and enthusiastic. This doesn’t of course mean that “those” people really are positive or cheerful. Often, we force ourselves to behave (or to write) as if we were feeling positive, for the very purpose of trying to gather a surrounding batch of friends, or readers, or what-have-yous. We’re not “allowed” to show our sadness or depression; it’s a huge taboo. Depression is contagious, after all, and the world is already a hard-enough place without someone bringing you down.
On the other hand, pretending everything is great isn’t necessarily advisable, because the world doesn’t take your expectations or attitude into account in that vector space of forces which determine events, contrary to much popular delusion. Not that optimism is always delusional—rational optimism and belief in possibility is fine as long as it doesn’t stray into overconfidence and unwarranted certainty. As Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, confidence and accuracy do not correlate well.
Is my confidence in that fact a self-contradiction? Have I caught myself by the tail? I don’t think so**. My confidence is provisional, my attitude deliberately modeled on the scientific method. Let your conclusions and convictions be based as much as you can on evidence and reason, and always leave them, at least in principle, open to revision. And, if you have the stomach for it, always try to poke holes in your own conclusions. Ideas that survive constant criticism and prodding are more likely to be closer to truth than those that are never subject to criticism. This is the root not merely of the scientific method, but also of the defense of freedom of speech as argued in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and in many other places. I’ve encountered no arguments that have even slightly swayed me away from it.
I’m pretty good at self-criticism, of course. It seems built into me at a more basic level than even my operating system; in the hardware, not the software. I take after Hamlet more and more as time goes by, it seems, wearing dark clothing and reflecting on how stale, flat, and unprofitable are pretty much all the uses of the world (largely because I’m in it). He was a bit of a downer, too, I guess.
My writing, though—albeit often dark—is not necessarily a downer. For instance, I just finished the second run-through of The Vagabond, adding, adjusting, and hopefully improving it as I went along, and I think it’s a good story that ends on a positive note. One thing I tend to do, despite my tongue-in-cheek “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, is to recognize that evil characters and things, the villains of my stories and of many others, are the most tragically self-deluded, fearful, and deeply unhappy people. This doesn’t stop them from being dangerous. I think that “evil” people—and certainly evil characters—tend to be the among the most alone, the most lost, the most despairing, the most deeply suffering in many ways, of all characters, and perhaps of all people.
One of the things I love about the anime Sailor Moon*** is that Usagi tends to win her battles, even against the Big Bad Guys, not by destroying her opponents—not if she can help it—but by redeeming them, and showing them that they are not alone. Me, I’d tend more along the Sailor Saturn lines and be prone to wipe everything out and start over (I’ve even done that in some of my stories). When Sailor Moon can’t avoid destroying someone, it breaks her heart. But then, of course, “Our princess is such a crybaby,” as Sailor Uranus says, with affection and admiration.
That was a weird tangent, wasn’t it? I did end up writing more than I expected (as I expected, ironically), but I’m not sure it really was about much or if it was expressed well. ごめん ね すなお じゃなくて、 ゆめ の なか なら いえる****
I hope you’re all as well as can be, and that things go as best as possible for you, in the best of all possible lives you can lead. Please try to stay safe and healthy.
*Google seems to list such things as podcasts, if you do a search for my name, which is interesting. I’ve never even owned an iPod, and I only briefly used an MP3 player before it was superseded by smartphones.
**But then, I wouldn’t, would I?
***I love it. I, a fifty-one-year-old, American male, ex-convict, M.D., love Sailor Moon. Sue me.
**** “Gomen ne sunao janakute, yume no naka nara ieru.” Roughly translated, it says, “I’m sorry I can’t be clear/candid; I can say it in my dreams.” It’s the opening line to “Moonlight Densetsu”, the Sailor Moon opening song (at least for the first four seasons).