Recipe for Humility Pie (Part 2)

Recipe for Humility Pie (Part 2)

On the last episode of Recipe for Humility Pie

recipe-for-humility-pie-part-1-self-escape
I expect you to have this memorized.

Got all that?

Good.

Or you could just click this GLORIOUS LINK to the first part of of the discussion.

Now that you’ve thoroughly familiarized yourself with the last post, you’re ready for the test. Success will be met with cooing noises of approval. Failure will be met with a knock on the door and a long ride in a black van to an undisclosed location. But let’s not worry about that now.

Let’s talk about humility!

There are three points I’m going to cover in separate posts. The first part will be all about what humility is and what it is not. There are, especially in Western cultures, many misconceptions about what humility is, what it looks like, what kind of soap it uses to achieve that intoxicating, earthy scent. But I’m here to clear that up. Sort of. I’m no expert and there have been entire books dedicated to the subject. So I’m not really going to clear up anything so much as sift through the mucousy exudation of information and try to get to at least a slightly clearer appreciation for this forgotten, Jon Snow of a bastard of a virtue. Part two, covered in a separate post, of this odyssey will be about what science, and research, and smart people have found that having a nice slice of humility pie can do for you. Finally, the third thing I’m going to expound mightily upon is how we get out of our ruts of believing we’re the best thing since stellar nuclear fission created heavy elements that make up the building blocks of life and into a mindset of humility.

Now, put your pencils down and consider changing into some comfy clothes while you wait since some of you may be going for an unplanned vacation.

Who Are You? Who? Who?

humili-tea
It’s funny right? (Someone please kill me.)

I want to get this out in front because I am sure that some of you may be fostering two versions of humility in your head. Neither of them is right. The first is the saintly sage. (The next section is to be read in David Attenborough’s voice.)

Look how the saintly humble man scurries over the landscape. Look at his bowed head, his plain and rough clothing. Look there as he collects thistles for his simple, utterly humble meal that he will eat in his simple, completely non-ostentatious mud hovel.

Barf.

Now for misconception number two which is that humility is just a fancy way of saying that someone is a weakling. (The next section can be read in the voice of a gossipy co-worker you hate or a douchey fraternity/sorority person.)

Did you see (We’ll call this person Bobbine)? S/he walks around all day, too afraid to say anything. At the last meeting/focus group/BDSM potluck s/he didn’t say a word. It’s like s/he isn’t even there. Bobbine can’t even look anyone in the eye. I swear I saw Bobbine wriggling on the ground in the break room like a worm. S/he even left a slime trail. It’s just so sad. By the way, has anyone seen my ball gag?

Double-barf.

Okay, let’s pop these misconception bubbles so we can dig into the earthy, fragrant goodness of what humility actually is. Being humble does not mean being a saint. Fuck that. You don’t need to move to a mountain and meditate while kneeling on hot coals to pump up your astral energy all the while flagellating yourself with a flail made from the pages of Deepak Chopra books. Being humble doesn’t mean you transcend the earthly plane or stop feeling negative or even destructive emotions. People who practice humility feel all the same emotions and experience all the same ups and downs that anyone else feels. There is no secret, no mantra, no totally groovy one-ness with everything. It’s more of the same and nothing besides. And it certainly isn’t anything less which brings me to this little revelation.

Being humble does not mean you are a spineless pushover. People can’t just go up to you and say, “You look like a humble dude/dudine, give me your wallet,” or, “You look mighty humble, I think you should believe global warming is a conspiracy designed by disgruntled polar bears to plunge the earth into another ice age so that a new Polar Bear Empire can rise from the frozen tundra.” Push a person with humility and s/he will still tell you to fuck off and they might not even be that nice about it. Being led around by the nose, not standing up for yourself, always being in the background are not acts of humility. Those are acts of fear, of anxiety. As I said in the previous post, some amount of confidence is necessary, not hating yourself is good, and not letting yourself be made into mincemeat by the machinations of others  are all positive things. But confidence and self-esteem need to be tempered with humility and humility does not equate to being a wimp. Allow me to tell you a bit about what humility is then.

Humility is a somewhat nebulous concept in large part to its being a trait or virtue that is so tightly tied to sense of self. And the concept of self is still something that is being debated and examined to this day.

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This is what happened to the last guy who tried to understand the subtle nature of self.

However, Albrecht (2015) characterizes humility as, “emotional neutrality. It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either.” So humility is fairness! Everyone should be equal. Thank God that’s over. Time to go back to practicing my Force Choke.

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Vader gonna choke the arrogance out of you.

Actually humility, though it does have some points of contact with fairness, is not about fairness as an experiment conducted by Hilbig, Thielman, Wührl, and Zettler (2015) demonstrated. In the experiment, an unfair distribution of resources was allocated between a participant and an opponent. The participant was assigned to the conditions of having more resource or less. The participant then had the option to reassign the distribution of the resources. Those who tested high in a humility screening were more likely to reassign excess resource if they had been placed in the advantaged condition but often refrained from reassigning resources if they were put in a disadvantaged condition. In other words, this was not about everything being blindly fair and equal. The participants who tested high for humility allowed the other participant to walk away with more when they could have done something to stop it. Simply put, those high in humility were more likely to act benevolently, even when they themselves were going to end up disadvantaged. And this goes to the heart of humility, in my opinion. At the heart of humility is the recognition that we are not the center of the universe, that there are other people and forces out in the world besides ourselves and that our existence constitutes a minute portion of the totality of existence. Humility is the recognition of our smallness, our incompleteness.  In consideration of this, those who practice humility do not work so hard to maintain or grow their ego or sense of self-importance. There is no reason to compete with others as a means of asserting one’s superiority (except when it comes to Mario Kart 64. I’ll see you on the Rainbow Road, bitches!) since, in reality, no human being is greater or lesser than any other. We’re all just here for the ride, blood and bone machines in a vast, incomprehensible universe. In that context, all the achievements we lord over others don’t mean bugger all. With humility, one does not seek to dominate others or bend others to your will (except in Mario Kart 64). By the same token, you also don’t respond to being bent either since, all humans being on the same footing, other people’s ideas are more often than not just as incorrect as yours. This frees you to consider ideas, not based on how much authority or fervor the source of the information has, but how well the ideas mesh with reality.

Now that we’ve mashed our faces into humility’s luxurious mane and gotten a lungful of its liberating aroma (I’m not sure if we should be turned on or worried about this), it’s time to see what humility can do in a practical sense. So make sure to tap into your inner homing pigeon and  return here for the next post where I’ll show you just how much you can accomplish when you practice humility.

Sources:

Hilbig, B.E., Thielmann I., Wührl, J., Zettler, I. (2015). From honesty-humility to fair behavior-Benevolence or a (blind) fairness norm? Personality and Individual Differences, (80), 91-95. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com

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Recipe for Humility Pie (Part 1)

Recipe for Humility Pie (Part 1)

(This is part one of a series of posts exploring the nature of humility and why it’s a value or priority that will help, not only with interpersonal relationships, but in being successful. Also it will make you less of a dick and that’s definitely a plus.)

Let’s be honest, humility isn’t all that sexy. What gets you more wound up, and be honest; I’ll know if you’re lying: someone who is absolutely sure of themselves and projects a high degree of confidence or someone who will say their piece but also admit they may be wrong or they don’t have all the information. I’m willing to bet that most of you instinctively veer towards the more confident person, the person with high self-esteem. We almost can’t help ourselves. Our entire culture in the west is buttressed by the pillar that keeps asserting that self-esteem can fix anything and that lack of confidence should be perceived as a sign of weakness and defectiveness.

Want a raise? Be more confident!

Want to bed better people? Have more self-esteem!

Want to live in a better place? Be more confident!

Want to be more confident? Be more confident? Yep, be more confident!

We are culturally obsessed with confidence and self-esteem and their glistening, turgid girths. Or maybe that’s something else.

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Doge says: Much discomfort. Very avoiding eye contact.

What I’m trying to say is that these two related concepts get all the attention and we completely forget about the other side of the coin, namely, humility. Now I realize that of course confidence is good. Nobody wants to walk around with stooped, rounded shoulders, eyes glued to the pavement, head full of cruel voices that sounds exactly like that bastard-hat from middle school who ruined your social life and made it so you can no longer show your face in certain parts of town. That party just ain’t fun. We do need to have the confidence to act, to hold onto our personal values, and to not feel inferior or allow others to hurt us. If anything, a certain degree of confidence is necessary to acting and functioning in the world. The problem then isn’t quite confidence per se but our unflagging belief that more confidence is always better. All this confidence, especially when unwarranted, often enough leads to arrogance and entitlement and when we hit that point then confidence whips its head around to bite us on the ass, usually around the time when everyone around us wants to kick us in the ass. The same applies to self-esteem. In fact, self-esteem is even more problematic than confidence as I’ll explain. So while confidence and self-esteem may be the flashy, fun, boisterous people at the party  (and are probably doing lines in the bathroom), it’s humility that will be there to knock on the door to see if you’re still retching your guts up (what kind of parties are you going to?), will keep you grounded, keep you open, and keep you making real progress in life. It will also remember your birthday. But don’t just believe me. There’s some interesting science that’s come along to back up what I’m saying. But first of all, we need to talk about confidence and self-esteem, how they’re different, and how they have been held up as false idols.

false-idol
Bane knows a false idol when he sees it.

Confidence and self-esteem are kind of like kissing cousins (why does this article keep getting weirder?). They are related yet not exactly the same. You can be confident with no self-esteem but usually not vice versa. Confidence is all about your ability to trust yourself and your actions. In other words, I am confident I can finish an 18 inch pizza by myself. I know, I believe I can do this. Self-esteem is a value judgement. How do I feel about myself? Do I feel good about myself? Do I like myself?  Do I like myself and feel good about myself after eating all of that pizza? (The answer is yes, by the way. I don’t give a shit like that.) Confidence is based in the perception of your ability to engage with the world. Self-esteem is pretty much how you feel about yourself and just because you trust that you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you like yourself or that you think you’re great. See how they’re related yet different and how one can exist without the other? “But,” you may shriek at your screen, dotting it with spittle and partially chewed food stuffs, “I want to feel good about myself! I want to trust that I can do things!” That’s all fine. I’m not saying you should hate yourself or live your life in a tepid puddle of self-doubt. But you shouldn’t let yourself feel too good about yourself either, and here’s why.

I’m going to start with confidence, since at least confidence has more in its favor than nothing, and move into the storm surge of stupid that is self-esteem. Confidence, as I just said (actually paraphrased from what other, smarter, better paid people have said), is based more or less in the tangible. It’s what you believe you can do. More often than not, this confidence is born from what you’ve done. This is all well and good so far. However, when taken too far, we get arrogance and inflexibility. When confidence morphs into over-confidence, what started as trust in oneself to do a certain thing turns into an unfounded belief that you can do ALL the things and do all the things perfectly! And heaven help anyone who challenges this version of the truth for this over-confident, yea, arrogant fellow shall verily smite this accursed soul! Over-confidence is calcification, it is hardening, and, according to Gregg, Mahadevan, &Sedikides (2016) it is hoarding. People guard their beliefs, their opinions, and their certainties the same way they would a physical treasure. In other words, they are intellectual Ebenezer Scrooges. The irony, of course, is that it’s just an opinion, just a belief, and it’s probably not entirely correct anyways. People will not jettison a belief (hoarding) and they also will not make room for any new or competing beliefs (calcifying). While this may ensure that they hold on to their precious beliefs, it also means that they’ve stopped growing. They are like the little dead chunks of coral that wash up on beaches. They’re not good for much more than putting on a shelf because they’re not going to be doing anything else. And just like those chunks of dead coral, they can cause a lot of pain. In other words, they’re rough, abrasive, and down right pains in the asses if you should step on one. This kind of mental rigidity can handily explain the Semmelweis Reflex described in another post. This also explains why once people double down on their certainties, it’s tough to impossible to shake this belief. Even a person who has definitive proof through failure that they cannot do something will find an escape route to explain his or her failure and they’ll come out feeling just as good about themselves as they did going into this latest mistake. This leads then to self-esteem and its gaggle of issues.

Self-esteem has even less going for it than confidence. At least confidence has to do with something measurable. Self-esteem is all about how you feel about yourself, about feeling just dandy about yourself. If over-confidence is all about being hard then self-esteem is all about mushy-gushy feelings and loving yourself for the special snowflake you are. Now, this self-esteem thing was the unfortunate after-birth of the positive psychology movement which developed as a means of studying what made life worth living for us meat machines and how to best enjoy our meaty, juicy existence. However, as per usual, things got way out of hand. All of a sudden, love wasn’t all you needed, just self-esteem. Your life sucks, it’s because you’re lacking self-esteem. You suck, just believe that you don’t suck! It’s magic, bitch!

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You see this magic shit coming out of my hands? Your reason and rationality got nothing on me!

But, like energy fields, fairy folk, and ab-master machines, things did not work as advertised. Turns out that when students were given a heavy dose of self-esteem therapy, they didn’t get any smarter. Crime didn’t magically go down. If anything, the worst of us actually already felt pretty damn good about themselves. (Slater, 2002). Is it any wonder why? Self-esteem, used in this way, is not contingent on reality. When functioning correctly, self-esteem is a result of not sucking and doing things well or at least not terribly. It does not work in reverse. You earn self-esteem. But when we feel good for no reason about ourselves, it short-circuits the process and plunges us into a fantasy world, a psychosis where we believe we are better than we are, even in the face of mounds of contradictory evidence. It’s entirely possible for everything you touch to go to shit and still have the self-esteem of a God-King. You could be an unmitigated, continent sized asshole but to you, through your dishonest perceptions, you are some kind of unholy hybridization of Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Willy Wonka, and The Giving Tree. In case you’re not seeing how wrong all of this is and why, allow me to explain.

You’re perfect just the way you are. Love yourself for your perfect little self. I bet your life coach, or therapist, or dominatrix has told you something like this at some point (especially if one person happens to be all three). But here’s the problem. You’re not perfect. Actually I don’t know if I have the energy to go into how fucked up you are. After going and having a little sob now that I’ve applied my Big Bad Hairdryer of Truth to your perfect little snowflake world, sit your ass back down and let’s cut through the years of lies you’ve been fed. You’re not perfect, you’re not wonderful just as you are. You just are. Do you think I’m perfect or that I think I am? I’m an underemployed millennial often overwhelmed with bouts of hopelessness and a nasty temper. I have a knack for being misanthropic and have a difficult time honestly expressing myself to people because I unfortunately want everyone to like me. I could go on and on about how fucked up I am. Trust me, I haven’t even scratched the surface and some of this stuff just isn’t right for public consumption. But I’m honest about it. I’m not perfect. I will never be perfect. That’s impossible. But I make no excuses for it and I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. But because I know these things about myself I can actively hold them in check. And sometimes I fail. I fail a lot. But I’m not going to be perfect there either. I’m just a human trying to get through my little human life without hurting too many people along the way. But I couldn’t hope to curb my negative tendencies if I lied to myself about them and this is where a lot of people get into trouble.

The problem with always feeling good about yourself is that it is completely unjustified and it makes us think that we can do whatever we want. To be human is to be flawed and to be flawed is to be limited. For instance, if you weigh three hundred pounds, do you really think that you are going to The Olympics? If you hate math are going to work for NASA? The problem with being over confident and having a glut of self-esteem comes from thinking that we are capable of anything and we deserve to be able to do anything without compromise, without sacrificing and suffering. Hate to break it to you but unless you’re willing to suffer to make huge changes you are going to have to accept your limitations. Now being overweight and being bad at math is one thing. You can actually do something about those with the proper amount of grueling effort. But what if you’re a jackass? What if you are a coward? What if you clam up at parties or will do anything to be the center of attention at parties? These aren’t simple fixes. In fact, you may not be able to fix some of these issues. Now what? You can either go the feel-good route and shoot up your mind with the dirty needle of self-esteem or you can be honest and ride out the pain and disappointment. Go the former route will feel better but go the latter route and you’ll have the opportunity for real change. And no I’m not saying you’ll necessarily be able to change these things about yourself. I got you! You thought there was a happy ending.

There isn’t.

You’re going to still have to deal with being an imperfect person. But now that you can be honest about your flaws, your weaknesses, your limitations, you can work within their confines. “But I don’t want to live within their confines! I want to spread my wings and soar on the winds of freedom!” Yeah well you’re not a frigate bird so sit down and shut up. We all have limits. We all are born with limits. Your success in life will depend on your ability to essentially put up with your own broken bullshit and make a good life in spite of the fact that you are a flawed human being. So stop with this masturbatory fixation on being perfect and wonderful. You will drive yourself crazy and give yourself brain bubbles if you keep that up. Just accept the inescapable truth of the matter: you are not perfect and you don’t have all the answers. You’re just a human being among seven billion other human beings just trying to not fall off the earth. That’s all you are and that’s all you have to be.

As much as it may hurt to hear this, as much as you may want to block out everything you just read, there’s nothing we can really do about it. However, we can accept it with grace and a touch of humility helps to keep us grounded. So, for my next post I’m going to dive into what humility is, what benefits it provides, and how we can cultivate it.

(Please turn cassette over to the other side to continue.)

Sources:

Gregg, A. P., Mahadevan, N., Sedikides, C. (2016). Intellectual arrogance and intellectual humility: Correlational evidence for an evolutionary-embodied-epistemological account. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(1), 59-73. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com

Slater, L. (2002, February 3). The trouble with self esteem. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

The Measurement of Mortality

The Measurement of Mortality

Since the New Year is coming, I thought it might be fun to look ahead, not just to the next year, but the far, far, FAR future and what we might expect.

SPOILER ALERT: WE ALL DIE! AND EARTH DIES! AND THE UNIVERSE DIES! EVERYTHING DIES!

In terms of going big or going home, it don’t get much bigger than the Apogee of Endings, Monolithic Mortality, The Termination of Teleology! You get the idea.

But why though?

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Why you gotta be so down?

The point is not to be depressive or pessimistic or, God forbid, emo (is that still a thing?). The simple fact of the matter is that just about everything you think is just SO important is not really that important. What we think and believe is especially unimportant, just about as unimportant as what we want. And yet, we continue to mentally turn ourselves into the little red pin that goes in the center of the cosmic map. It’s all about us and it’s all here for us, one big cosmic smorgasbord designed and enacted to content us and God help anyone if things don’t conform to the way we think things should be, such as finding a suspicious hair in the celestial bisque! But I’m going to tell you the secret everybody knows deep down in their little twitching hearts: life isn’t perfect or fair. In fact, life hurts a lot of the time. Let’s go one better and say life is one big, multi-tiered shit sandwich punctuated every so often by a delicious slice of dill pickle. And guess what? You’re lucky to be eating it because once you reach the far crust, you’re dead pal. Bad metaphors aside, life is painful and that’s just the way it is and always has been. So think about it: if you’re constantly running from pain and discomfort, by extension aren’t you also running from life in all its uncertainty, and disappointment, and, yes, pain? Does that mean that if you get to the end of it while living in blissful contentment and ignorance maybe you never really lived?

Now, considering everything you just read, considering that you’re going to die no matter what choices you make or what you believe, do you still want to fret about whether or not to ask the girl/guy out that your groin brain has been after you about? Or do you want to stick around with the guy/girl who doesn’t treat you with love and respect? Do you want to stay in the soul crushing job you hate with the boss you loathe just to make money? Do you honestly think that you have everything figured out when you’re just like all the other naked apes that have lived and died and turned into dust? What’s more likely? That you’re that one ape in untold billions that’s got it all figure out or that you’re just as fucked as all the rest of us. Trick question. You’re fucked.

A large part of all our problems is thinking so much of ourselves and about ourselves. We blow everything up to the point of cosmic constants, from our pains to our opinions. This kind of aggrandizement, this mythologizing of our personal experiences, puts us and our unhappiness on a pedestal like it’s some kind of great event. But it’s not. It’s nothing different than what billions upon billions of other nameless humans have endured throughout history. We don’t remember them, we don’t remember their troubles and I hate to be the one to break this to you but no one will remember  you or yours either. And chances are no one will care what you thought about this or that. Opinions are great and all but the graveyard is full of people who I bet were very strongly of the opinion that they shouldn’t die. Go try asking them about whether or not the world gave a sideways shit about them and their opinions. But don’t worry, it’s okay that you think that way. In fact, it’s quite normal and here’s why.

Your brain, besides being the most complicated thing in the universe other than the universe itself, is a total douche bag. Yeah, that’s right. Your brain sucks, specifically it sucks at correctly interpreting the world around it. You see, cognitive, or thought, processing power is expensive. As it is, your brain consumes up to 33% of the energy in your body. Just like your asshole roommate who eats all your cereal and never buys more to replace it. So, in order to make cognitive processing less energy intensive and to free up cognitive resources to do other important things (like watching cat videos and figuring out where the remote went), we evolved a set of what are called cognitive biases. They’re almost like little computer programs running in the background that quickly and cheaply interpret information. But you buy cheap, you get cheap and many times we are left with a skewed or down right wrong interpretation of the world. And we’re all guilty of it much of the time. But for now I want to focus on two cognitive biases called the Impact Bias and Semmelweis Reflex.

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This is your brain. This is your douche bag brain. And it’s living inside of you right now. Doing douche-y things. Behind your face.

The Impact Bias makes us think that things are going to affect us emotionally much more strongly than they actually will. But the thing is, this is all in your head. It’s a way to get yourself geared up and ready for lots of pain and disappointment or really psyched up and sweaty for some awesomeness. Unfortunately though we blow up our expectations, especially of negative emotions, to crippling heights and to such degrees that we paralyze ourselves right out of acting. We convince ourselves that our failure will be more complete than Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, that entire chapters of history books will be dedicated to our shame. All because our douche bag brain can’t help but diddle its own emotion centers.

But this neuro-diddling (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d have the good fortune to write) is all in your head. Quite literally. Because, as I’ve been saying, the world doesn’t give a damn! And in fact most people don’t care either. Nobody cares except you! And you might be thinking, in dramatic Howard Beale fashion, while furiously poking your head to try to stop your brain’s sinful self-abuse, “But it’s my life! I care! My life has value God damn it!” I’m not saying your life has no value (which, if we want to get technical, it doesn’t in a measurable objective sense though that’s an issue for another post) but you’re turning thoughts, conjectures, beliefs, emotions, all things that only exist in the shadow play inside your skull, into objective measurements of reality. Value, sure. But real? What you’re feeling ain’t that.

Now we come to the Semmelweis Reflex. This one has a particularly fun backstory. There was a doctor in 19th century Austria named Ignaz Semelweis who made the very astute and, today, common sense observation that if you handle a sick person then immediately, and without washing your hands, go to deliver a baby, that baby and mother have a high chance of dying from transferred bacteria. However, the doctors at the time not just balked at the prospect of this idea but destroyed Dr. Semmelweis’s career and reputation. Today, a cognitive bias that describes people’s tendency to reject new information that conflicts established paradigms and norms is named after him.

As per usual, we place ourselves and what we think before and above everything else. We know best. My beliefs are better than yours! My opinion can kick your opinion’s ass! So why do we do it? The simple answer is because being wrong bruises our oh so delicate ego. Especially when it comes to deeply ingrained beliefs and biases. Contrary information stabs right into the soft, quivering center of who we think we are and how we view the world. Furthermore, it forces us to admit we were wrong. And nothing hurts more than having to admit you’ve been living wrong. It’s like admitting that your life has been one big hologram, minus Jem.

Never fear, though, for the omnipresent shadow of death is here to set us wayward meat-boxes straight! Everything you already believe is most likely wrong anyways! So you’re already living wrong! “But I have facts! I have figures! I have reputable sources! Look at my bulging bibliography! Awww Yiss!”

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This goose just saw your bulging bibliography. You animal.

There is only one truth, mein leibe franken. Actually two truths. One: I can’t speak the German very well. And two: we are going to die. After that, all we have are the observations made by and through our perceptions. Does this mean you can believe whatever you want? Yay! Post-modern party at my place! You can find me at Derrida Center. (Literature nerds will get it. Everyone else needs to learn them some books.) No, there are some things that are more wrong or more right than other things. The point is that we are never one hundred percent right. No human being can hold absolute knowledge or truth. What does that even mean? Perfect knowledge, perfect understanding? Those concepts exceed the limits of humanity and human potential and so are meaningless to us. None of us have the answers. Whatever answers we do hold are provisional. This doesn’t mean that if someone comes up to you and says, “This begonia is a karaoke champion,” you say, “Well, this has thoroughly challenged my beliefs, I shall hereby accept it.” No. Also, are you some kind of high powered idiot?  You use critical thinking. You weigh the evidence based on what the begonia dude (or dudine) presents and on what things you also know about begonias and karaoke. You can then consider the two options and come to a reasonable conclusion that is the less wrong of the two options. The singing begonias may seem like a bit of a stretch but there are many times when we’re confronted with ideas that to us, based on our views of the world, seem equally outlandish. But it’s important that we keep our minds open yet scalpel sharp to spot bullshit and keep it from breaching the gates of our minds while allowing in the good nuggets that are less wrong than whatever bullshit we were currently believing.

To sum up, you’re going to die. Compared to that everything else can be dealt with and up against that anything you think you know or are so sure of isn’t a canary fart in a typhoon. Your negative experiences aren’t going to kill you. The only thing that’s going to kill you is death. And your big house and the seven mortgages it takes to keep living in it aren’t all that amazing and prestigious anymore, are they? You’re probably not as smart or infallible as you thought for that matter.

So if everything is so trifling in the face of our mortality, then what’s the point of doing anything? Why not turn life into one giant animalistic blood orgy? That is a post for another time. All you need to be worrying about right now is coming to grips with your own mortality and wondering if you’ve been using your limited time well so far.

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Credit and all rights belong to BBC. It’s a bit of a long read but reading through this timeline of future events is as fascinating as it is scary.