Strange Planet Music to Shut Down that Pesky Ego

Strange Planet Music to Shut Down that Pesky Ego

You know that in space, no one can hear you scream. And we all know that your screams will go unheard because in space there is no air to transmit sound waves (At least, everyone should understand this by now.). However, as per usual, reality doesn’t give a sideways shit about your monkey-level preconceived notions of how things work or should work. It turns out that there is, “sound,” in space if we broaden our definition of what sound consists of which is what the awesome people at NASA decided to do. It turns out that planets emit electromagnetic radiation, radiation we can detect and measure. Each planet emits a characteristic electromagnetic vibration that, when put through the right computer programs, will produce sounds, sounds that could be said to be the sonic fingerprint of these planets. Why am I talking to you about planet music? Two reasons really. First of all, this kind of thing challenges previously held beliefs and knowledge. These are perceptions and beliefs we accept without question and if you’ve read any of the post on my blog you know that I am all about never just accepting what we think we know. Secondly, listening to these sounds is a good opportunity to break you out of your normal frame of mind and frame of reference to see that there are phenomena playing out on much larger stages. In other words, our little human drama is not all that astounding when placed besides the roaring and whistling of these cosmic bodies. So sit back, close your eyes, and let these eerie sounds sweep you away into the vast stretches of cold, sterile space where you’ll be reminded for just how little your ego counts.

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Time to Get Schwifty: Why Rick and Morty is the Show You Need to Be Watching

Time to Get Schwifty: Why Rick and Morty is the Show You Need to Be Watching

I understand that a lot of the stuff on the blog gets into some heavy philosophy and psychology and deals with some rather negative realities. Sure I try to mix things up with humor but ultimately who wants to read all this shit all the time? Why do we always have to be thinking? Isn’t life full of that crap already? You have to think about the bills. You have to think and worry about your kids. You have to worry about your extramarital or extra-relationship lovers. You have to worry about that weird bump that’s starting to itch and which one of your lovers gave it to you. Luckily, the good people at Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim have got the answer for you in the form of their hit show, Rick and Morty!

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Peace among worlds, bitches! (All rights@Warner Bros. Television)

In case you’ve been rubbing broken glass in your eyes and ears for the past two or so years, Rick and Morty, the sci-fi sitcom that airs on the Adult Swim programming block on Cartoon Network, is a big deal. It’s been garnering a massive and dedicate following and is considered by many to be one of the most simultaneously funny and disturbing shows on television. It was originally a single short film titled The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti that was a bastardization of the dynamic between Doc and Marty from Back to the Future. And what a bastardization it was. One that I strongly, strongly recommend you don’t watch. Unless you have a strongly warped sense of toilet humor. Or have access to copious amounts of eye bleach. Actually, just stick to the mass marketed product of Rick and Morty.

The show itself follows the interdimensional misadventures of mad alcoholic genius, Rick Sanchez, and his neurotic grandson, Morty. There’s a lot more to it than that. Actually, there’s an entire mythology that the creators of the show baked in and said they would only allude to in clues scattered about. For the most part the show is episodic, with each episode existing as a self-contained entity though there are frequent callbacks and references to events that occur in other episodes. Now would you like to know why you should get on the Rick and Morty bandwagon?

As you may have guess from posts like this and this I’m a big fan of the idea that the world is basically beyond human comprehension, that our existence is absurd at its core, and that we are nevertheless bound to still pursue meaning in a world that is devoid of objective meaning. To put it succinctly, I subscribe to what can essentially be described as the kind of absurdism espoused by thinkers such as Albert Camus. Rick and Morty is heavy on the absurdism and the absurdist comedy. So while we may have moments of insane humor that highlights the almost arbitrary nature of the reality we experience such as the following clip

there are little nuggets of philosophical, specifically existentialist and absurdist, philosophy sprinkled throughout such as the following moment.

 

Rick and Morty is almost like a fun house mirror to our lives in some very interesting ways in that it is both grotesquely entertaining while still conveying some aspects of our reality. Yes the gags and interdimensional hopping are way out there however, the core of the show is its characters and as always it’s the characters who really keep you glued to the screen. Every character is filled with some kind of pathos that’s milked for comedy and that, on rare occasions, gets played straight. And really at its core, and possibly deeper if some of the fan theories about the backstory are to be believed, the show is about the bonding between a boy and his, admittedly, crazy grandfather. Who can’t get behind something like that?

I’ll admit, this show is not for everyone. It is offensive, often times seemingly crazy and random (bordering on Dadaist sometimes), and has it’s share of crass humor. However, if you every had the feeling that the world around you is fundamentally unhinged or that our nature as humans owes more to the irrational than the rational as Aristotle thought, then you may have found your new addiction.

Three Incredible and Incredibly Dangerous Places on Earth that Will Remind You of Your Place in Existence

Three Incredible and Incredibly Dangerous Places on Earth that Will Remind You of Your Place in Existence

The world is a crazy place, regularly violating our expectations and our sense of how things, “should,” be. For this very reason, learning about the world and universe, and our nearly insignificant place in it, is a good way to start overcoming the bad habit of thinking the world begins and ends with us that we acquire from too much coddling and self-esteem boosting charlatanry. I hope I don’t need to remind you again, though I gladly will, that we are not the most amazing things going on in this world. Biologically, sure we are fascinating, about as fascinating as any complicated biological system but our egos, lashed together from our biases, beliefs, and misconceptions, should only be considered interesting or valid from the point of view of the psychological sciences. It turns out that the world doesn’t seem to share the opinion that we deserve to be here or that we’re some kind of integral piece of the natural world puzzle. Just take a look at the kinds of inhospitable conditions that exist right here on our planet. Consider the harsh realities of life on this tiny spheroid (no the world isn’t a perfect ball though it sure isn’t flat as some mental defectives are claiming) then explain how this is all for us and all about us. The planet has always reserved the right to casually wipe out anything it wants, including us eventually.

In other words, get out of your head, open your eyes wide, wipe the languid look off your face, and stop thinking you got things all figured out. Your life will become so much richer when you do. To help you get there, here’s a collection of three extreme places located right here on Earth that you probably had no idea existed and that will remind you of our tenuous position in the scheme of things.

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

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No, this is not another planet. This place can be found on Earth. Those pools of water are some of the most naturally acidic found on the planet.
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Huge mineral deposits rear out of the landscape.

 

This highly volcanic region lies north of what’s called the Afar Region of Ethiopia. It is, by way of averages, the hottest place on Earth with an average annual high temperature of 41 ° C (105° F). Not only that, there is little precipitation and only a few days a year see measurable rainfall. The water seen in the photos is the result of the Awash river drying up and terminating before it can make contact with the Indian Ocean. Though this place may look inhospitable, a few extremophile microbes manage to eek out an existence here, using exotic biology to survive the brutal conditions. But it isn’t just microbes that have made this place their home.

In this alien landscape made of hydrothermal fields, magma lakes, and chemical laced waters, the 1974 discovery of early Hominid fossils of the Austrolopithecus species would mark a turning point in our understanding of our evolution. The fossils of this individual would be dubbed Lucy and would be one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century. Since then, many other hominid fossils would be found in the region, leading the area to be called, “the cradle of humanity.”

We may have ditched the salt flats for salt shakers but it’s important to remember where we came from and that we’re still new to this planet in terms of geological time. No matter how far we may progress or how special we may think we are, there’s no denying the fact that our ancestors arose from a humble, inhospitable chunk of Earth that could just have easily murderer them in any number of vicious and interesting ways, thus killing the whole hominid/human project in the crib. Pun intended.

Valley of Death, Kamchatka, Russia

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The valley opens at the foot of the Kikpinych Volcano.
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Geysers and steam vents release noxious chemicals into the air.

This forbidding place is found on the Kamchatka Peninsula, a spur of land over 1,250 KM (or almost 800 miles for those of you who hate the metric system and fun) on the eastern coast of Russia. It lies at the foot of the Kikpinych Volcano (brownie points to anyone who can explain how to correctly pronounce that word). In the mid-70’s a scientist and a park ranger both noticed a preponderance of dead animals in this region. After studying the area, scientists concluded that the air was actually high in hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, carbon disuphide and other contaminants that would be released into the air through the geothermal vents that snake through and release into the valley. In case you don’t know what some of those are, let me explain.

They kill you.

Getting back to the death valley, human beings will also feel the effects of the toxins in the air if they overstay their welcome. Signs that your Russian vacation may be much longer than anticipated can be lightheadedness, heat in the temples, headaches, and other unpleasantness. On the plus side, your corpse will stay nicely preserved for a long time since the chemical cocktail lingering in the air retards the oxidation process that leads to decay. However, if you really want to stay forever young, or at least forever preserved, the next and final place on the list is for you.

Lake Natron, Tanzania

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Credit@ Nick Brandt. Not a statue. Think about that for a second. That is not a statue.
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A salt crust, “rafts,” colored by the pink and red pigment of the cyanobacteria and other microorganisms that call this lake home.
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Despite its high salinity, a few species such as these lesser flamingos, thrive in these waters. That’s right, these flamingos are tougher than you.

Lake Natron is found in northern Tanzania. What makes it so interesting is its high alkalinity which is due to the high amount of salt and soda in its waters and I don’t mean Pepsi. It’s more along the lines of the baking soda variety. To grant you a sense of how intense and caustic the Natron’s waters are, consider that ammonia, on the pH scale, is 11.5 and bleach is 12.6. At its most alkaline, Lake Natron can be over 12 on the pH scale and has reportedly been able to cause chemical burns on humans and other creatures not specifically adapted to its harsh environment. Lesser flamingos, which nest on its shores and feed on the salt-loving algae that live here, as well as some talapia and other fish all call this lake home. To us and other animals, it’s not a great idea to swim here. However, if you do end up dying in this red pool of natural awesomeness, you can at least bet that you’ll be preserved. Just like that bird at the beginning of this segment.

Due to the high levels of sodium and sodium bicarbonate-like chemicals, your body will, given a bit of time, become mummified. In fact, the ancient Egyptians  used natron, sort of a watered-down (that’s a chemistry joke) version of the trisodium hydrogendicarbonate dihydrate (or trona to its friends) that saturates the lake to make their mummies. However, unlike many sensationalist sites have claimed, neither you nor other animals will die on contact with the lake. That doesn’t mean you should go splashing around and drinking from it, but it won’t kill you outright and turn you to stone. If you want to look as well preserved as our feathered friend up there, you’ll have to be dead going in. Maybe you should visit one of the two previous spots on the list then be shipped to Lake Natron. Just a suggestion.

And there you have it. There are plenty of other crazy places on this planet that will blow your mind and I may add another post on this topic. But for now, just keep in mind that these extreme locations serve as a reminder of the fragility of organic life, ourselves included. We are tolerated on this planet. At a moment’s notice, things could change. So let’s tread lightly and respectfully, always remembering that we are not in control and never have been and to live with the humility that our place in existence demands.

Gomboc’s Wisdom for Life

Gomboc’s Wisdom for Life

Meet Gomboc.

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See? Here it is. This is Gomboc.

Gomboc is a little boring. I understand. This is not what the people want. We need faster, sexier, more intense, better special effects. So let’s try this.

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That’s better. Meet Gomboc-kun. Why do you people make me do these things?

Anyways, bad internet jokes aside, the point is that this weirdly shaped thing is a wonderful incarnation of applied mathematical principles and we can actually learn something from its bizarrely crafted form. But before we get to what we can gain from it, how about a little tour of what gombocs are all about?

In its simplest terms, a gomboc is a homogeneous mono-monostatic solid. What the hell does that mean? In its simplest terms, what this means is that it’s  solid with one stable and one unstable surface. Alright, that’s not all that simple. Let’s try this.

The gomboc is the world’s only self-righting shape.

“Nuh-uh!” You may scream while vivaciously shoving a finger up your nose. “I had a Weeble when I was but an ovum with legs! That thing would always stand back up no matter how many times I knocked it over!”

I would respectfully disagree but I don’t care enough to be respectful so I’m going to say to sit your butt back in your chair and get your finger out of your nose because if you keep doing that it’ll stretch out and never go back.

I would also explain that things like Weebles may wobble but not fall down (please don’t sue me whoever owns those things) not because of anything intrinsic to their shape but because of their center of gravity. When the Weeble is wobbled, its center of gravity is no longer over its pivot point and gravity will pull it back into its resting position. But this action is not a direct result of the Weeble’s shape but its composition since its bottom half is made of a denser, heavier material than its top half. The gomboc, however, is the real deal, as I’ll now explain.

The gomboc, because of its shape, can settle in only one way. This is not a function of its composition so much as it is the intrinsic nature of the shape. It has only one resting configuration and will naturally orient itself to this resting state, as seen in the video below.

 

In other words, no matter how you place the gomboc, it will return to its upright and most stable position. Interestingly, nature beat us to the punch again and we see naturally occurring examples of gomboc like structures in the shape of some turtle and tortoise shells which is how these creatures are able to right themselves after being flipped over for either a bout of vigorous belly rubs or a horrific death.

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“I’m a mathematical marvel! Now rub my belly!”

This is all very cool and if you’re totally in love with gombocs now, which I don’t know why you wouldn’t be, I’ll provide some links to read up on this nifty little lump of niftiness as well as purchasing options at the end of the article. But what does this have to do with us? What can we learn from this lumpy solid?

The Teachings of Gomboc

The first thing we can learn from the gomboc is related to what is immediately obvious just by looking at it. Gombocs are weird, frumpy, seemingly useless things. At least to us. Tortoises find them quite useful. But at least from our perspective, they are novelties. And not exactly flashy novelties like those pink leopard print handcuffs you’re hiding under your bed. However, its apparent simplicity belies an incredible complexity. It’s not like the principle was discovered then these things were mass-produced like McDonald’s burgers or Hollywood blockbusters. No, the principle was theorized in 1995 by Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold but not realized physically until 2006 by Hungarian scientists Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi. These structures are not exactly easy to make either, with extremely specific tolerances. All this history and complexity is hidden within the simple, frumpy solid exterior. If there’s anything to take from this is that your supposedly mediocre, boring life is actually made of layers of complexity and it’s your fault for not appreciating that.Maybe you’re boring. Maybe you go to work, then come home to eat dinner with your family or significant other (or alone), then go to sleep only to do it all over again. Yes it is boring and routine. But it’s life. We can’t expect to go tooling around the world, doing all kinds of crazy things and being in all kinds of crazy situations all the time. It’s just not feasible. Besides, if you actually learn to pay attention, you’ll see that the banal and commonplace offer opportunity for happiness and contentment. In other words, learn to alter your perspective. Part of the problem is that most of us simply get used to doing things the same way and so we begin to tune out the world around us. So instead, learn to pay attention, learn to notice things again and see the world you thought was so boring in new ways. Then apply this to yourself. Sure there may be nothing special about you on the surface but that doesn’t mean there’s not a world of complexity going on inside you. You just need to learn how to appreciate it again. When you see the interesting in the mundane, you’ll be granted more options and more opportunities, which brings me to gomboc teaching number two.

Gombocs are weird looking things. I may have mentioned that. A few times. I’m not the only one to think that though. It’s hard not to think that considering its lumpy shape and its French bulldog level of adorably awkward  movements.

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Breeders take note: integrate gomboc geometry into future French bulldog breeds.

However, despite their oddness, despite how atypical they are, they always manage to right themselves. Let that be a lesson to those of you out there complaining that you’re not perfect, believing you need to be better, you need to be more in order to get somewhere in life. You’re a mess and you are weird and imperfect and you’ve got more problems than Kirk has intergalactic love children. But, these idiosyncrasies are a part of your, “design,” and they are integral parts of what makes you you. If you go about smoothing out every edge, every inconsistency, you’re not going to be you anymore. You may also take away the things that may prove useful to you.You see, an incredibly intelligent psychiatrist named Carl G. Jung hypothesized something called the shadow complex. This comprises all the anger, the jealousy, the lust, the cowardice,  the laziness, and all the other negative things we hate about ourselves. In our self-help crazed culture, we are constantly trying to erase these things. We want and need to be perfect and flawless. To do this, we usually try replacing every negative thought and emotion with its positive corollary. In effect, we try to breed out the negative tendencies with positive ones. The only problem is that this doesn’t work that well. In the end we think that just because we’re acting out the correct behaviors, we’ve won. We are now wonderful people and our names shall be forever committed to the Big Book of Wonderful People! How wonderful! Of course the truth is not so wonderful. The truth is that we still maintain the urges to lash out, to run and hide, to blame others, to hit on that fine creature at the bar even though we’re married/engaged/in an exclusive relationship. And the truth is that these urges will never go away. They are the ugly side of our personality and, according to Jung, unless we learn to accept and integrate these ugly aspects of our psyche, we can never live full lives since we’ll always be denying a part of who we are.

You may think that what I’m about to say may suck but there’s no way around this little nugget of insight which is that as human beings it is we who suck. So we should all kill ourselves since we’re all irredeemable pieces of crap, right? Not really. I want to know who it was who put it in our heads that we come into this world to be perfect because I want to slap that person in the face with a large fish. The painful reality of our situation is that we are malformed, strange, kinky, hurtful, and hateful animals. That isn’t all we are but it is certainly no small part either. There’s not much we can do about this. Some of our basic instincts push us towards these tendencies as they helped us survive in the harsh environments we had to live in. For example, our instincts may push us to try to hump everything. If we can’t hump it, maybe we can eat it. If someone else is trying to hump or eat the thing we had our little simian hearts set on humping or eating then we fight and/or kill that other stupid simian. This is the nature of our species. And, like the weird shape of our gomboc teacher, these very same negative or at least unseemly traits have helped us survive and may actually continue to help us even if we don’t realize it. Your being prone to aggression could make you fierce in achieving goals. Your being afraid of everything may help you minimize risk and take into account variables others dismiss. Your being a horny bag of horniness may help keep the sexual/physically intimate side of your relationships from petering out and becoming boring. The same way the gomboc’s weird shape allows it to do what it does, your apparent oddness may help you just as long as you are aware of it and use it for constructive ends. And if you can’t aim it at constructive ends, then at least be aware of it and accept it so you can work to live with it. You can’t control or mitigate a trait that you refuse to acknowledge or that you believe you’ve already beaten. Remember, when it comes to personality flaws and traits, there is no conclusive victory. These are parts of our psyches that will always be with us as long as we’re alive so every day has to be a battle to either contain the parts of ourselves that can hurt others or to aim these negative impulses to positive ends. So, like the gomboc’s odd shape, we may be able to get back up and recover or push forward, not despite our oddness and seemingly negative aspects, but actually because of them which brings me to the final thing our lumpy master can teach us.

Gombocs get knocked down a lot. But they keep getting back up. In fact, you could say that gombocs exist solely to get knocked down so we can delight in their awkward attempts to right themselves. I hate to break it to you, but human life is the exact same way if you haven’t been paying attention. We get knocked down a lot. Things go wrong, we screw up, other people screw us up, we experience loss, and we make decisions that later come to bite us in the ass. In these moments, of which there are no shortage, we always have the choice of whether to lie there as piles of whimpering meat or we can right ourselves like gombocs. Naturally this is not easy nor graceful. A lot of times it’s down right embarrassing. We may  wonder why we bother, why we continue to get up after the universe makes it very clear it wants us to appreciate all the lovely dirt lying around by mashing our faces into it. But here’s the thing. Gombocs get up because it is the nature of the gomboc to make sure it is resting in a certain way. Likewise it is the nature of living things, humans included, to act and do things to achieve certain states. It’s also the nature of reality to be always shifting and changing, thus always moving the target we’re aiming at which means no matter how many times we think we’ve achieved our final state or our perfect happy place, we keep having to deal with issues and problems that arise or setbacks that pick us up and tenderly deposit us on our asses back at square one. So every time the universe knocks you down or disappoints you, be like gomboc and get back up because as living things, as human beings, that’s what we do. It’s our nature to act to achieve goals, even if it’s something as hoisting ourselves off the floor, putting on a pair of pants, and going to the store to get some more cereal. We have to do things because we’re alive, even when it hurts or we look stupid doing it.

So remember my beloved readers, your boring humdrum life is masking hidden complexity and opportunity that it is up to you discover by altering your perceptions. In other words stop complaining that you’re bored or that you are boring. You’ve just gotten used to seeing things how you expect them to be and not as they are. In other words, you’re being mentally lazy.  Secondly, you may be a weird lumpy mess but you can’t get rid of those lumps (except the ones your doctor prescribed that cream for. Which make sure you use it or else you’ll never stop itching.) because those lumps are part of who you are, they are a key component to what makes up your identity. Finally, even when life tips you over, get back up. The other choice is to lie there and give up. But that’s, again, lazy and irresponsible. Get back up if for no other reason than that as human beings what we do.

And remember: gomboc may be lumpy, gomboc may be strange, gomboc may get tipped over, but gomboc will straighten out again.

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“Thank you for paying attention to me! I hope you learned something!” (I’m either in need of help or beyond helping.)

Here are more links about the wonderful world of gombocs and how you can adopt a gomboc of your own!

Wikipedia

Gizmodo

Get Your Gombocs!

Get Your Very Own Gomboc!

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!”

zaceu08
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.