Search This Blog

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Flow State

 
 
We often use the phrase "in the zone" without entirely knowing what that means. At a glance, the phrase seems to refer to being really focused on something, but it's not considered a physical phenomenon but merely a state of mind. Yet, this isn't actually the case. While simply being focused on a task is a state of mind, there is a much more potent physical anomaly known as flow state. The coveted flow state is not merely a state of mind, but an actual physical process that deeply affects the person experiencing it. During flow state, the recipient experiences a rush of hormones, including enough endorphins to make the person in question experience a sensation similar to morphine... except it's over 100x (!) more powerful.

What's going on here? How does merely being focused on a task give you a sort of high that's 100 times stronger than morphine?

To understand what flow state is and how to reach it, one must first understand "monkey brain". As Jordan Peterson might put it, our heads are full of the constant and incessant chatter of various demons. "Monkey brain" is our default mode of existing; it consists of countless narratives and background processes that are so numerous that they can't be completely mapped out with any degree of accuracy. There's this common misconception that we don't use all of our brain, that we only use (insert a small percentage here) and that we would reach enlightenment if we could only unlock the rest of our brain.

This isn't actually true; it's true that not all of our brain matter is used just for thinking, but there's a reason for that. Our brains are full of tissue and fluids that help it maintain and run properly. The parts of our brain that carry out cognitive tasks are always active in some way, except maybe for synapses for old memories that haven't been accessed in a very long time (ancient memories that stay dormant until you suddenly encounter something that brings that memory back to the forefront, like when you suddenly feel nostalgia from a single smell or object).

Yet, our heads are always full of irrelevant bullshit. We are bombarded with so much physical stimulation from our phaneron* that it hinders our ability to be at our very best engagement at any particular moment.
 
*Phaneron: The set of senses and cognitive processes that perceive information and relay it to our consciousness. At any given moment, you are being bombarded with millions of pieces of information. Something as simple as looking at this screen is relaying unfathomable amounts of information to you via your phaneron.

While we like to playfully call this default mode "monkey brain" because it speaks to our most base, and primal instincts (feeling hungry, or physically tired, or sleepy, or horny, or craving salt, or sugar, or nicotine, or feeling tempted to check your social media, or daydreaming about arguments you won't even ever have, et cetera), but it actually has a scientific name. It's called Default Mode Network, and it actually is a network in every sense of the word.

It's not one part of the mind, it's many. It's a complicated network of connections that are mostly active during the day when we're fully-awake, and the prime parts involved are the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and the inferior parietal lobule.

There's a metaphor for this that I'm surprised I've never seen anyone else make, so I'll remedy that by making it here. Our Default Mode Network or monkey brain is essentially a bunch of branch predictions in a CPU.

In computer chips, there's something called "branch prediction" which is essentially a tool used to save time by keeping track of previous activity and making future decisions based on that past activity. Branch prediction is important because it speeds up the computer drastically by allowing it to predict what you'll do next, then pre-emptively starting that task for you. For example, if you were to run a program at exactly 4:00 PM every day, your CPU might develop faster load times for that program since it can now anticipate that program being run every day and it can process some of the necessary information in advance that way it will be faster to execute.

Branch prediction is necessary because otherwise, everything would take drastically longer to load since every time you opened something or started a program, it would be as if you were running it for the first time. There's a lot more involved with this process, like caching, but we won't go into that stuff.

Basically, our brains do that too. That's why Pavlovian Conditioning works so damn well on us. If every day at 2:00 in the afternoon you eat a cheeseburger, then after a while you'll start salivating uncontrollably at 1:50. Your body and mind will use its own form of branch prediction to carry out tasks based on your past behavior and lifestyle. If you always eat a cheeseburger at 2:00, your body and mind are going to start pre-emptively preparing for that burger moments before the usual time. It's not just small stuff like your salivary glands, either. Your stomach might increase the acidity of its acid in preparation for digestion, and your hunger hormones will kick in and urge you to carry out the task of getting a cheeseburger and cramming it down your gullet.

 

While those are much more specific examples, if you usually have the same few things for lunch, the likelihood of you craving those specific things later increases exponentially by virtue of reinforcement. Each time you engage in a previously established habit, your body and mind are going to reinforce that habit even further.

Your Default Mode Network is full of these habits; everything from how much you sleep to how often you have feelings of doubt and insecurity and even your breathing and posture are included. These systems go so deep that even tiny fluctuations in hormones are included. This is why anti-depressants work well on people who don't have any actual problems--usually when a person is feeling depressed and they go to see a therapist, a good thing for the therapist to do is find out if they're feeling depressed because of their problems or if they actually have depression. The reason why it's important to distinguish between the two is because a person with chronic depression will feel depressed even when everything in their life is objectively going great for them, whereas someone who's actually downtrodden might not feel depressed once their problems have been alleviated.

As JP put it, he would have people come in saying, "I'm depressed." Dr. Peterson would ask them, "Alright, how's your financial situation? How's your relationship with your family? Besides feeling depressed, how healthy are you?" and if they answered, "All my closest relatives are dead, I have no friends, I have chronic health isuses and I'm broke," then JP would know, "Alright, so you don't feel like crap for no reason, you feel like crap because your life sucks and we have to fix those problems for you to feel better."

But if instead they answered, "I have a close and loving family, I'm quite healthy and I'm financially well-off," then the problem is likely an issue with their hormonal balance. Their brain isn't releasing the amounts of serotonin or dopamine that it should be, or their receptors aren't using them correctly, so things that are supposed to make a person feel good simply aren't. This chronic lack of positive reinforcement also causes a chain reaction of negativity bias and increases negative arousal and stimuli across the board by squashing positive emotions. That being said, giving anti-depressants to a person like this will usually work wonders, but giving anti-depressants to a person with a genuinely awful life won't help much in most cases, because their hormones are functioning fine. They're just feeling like crap because they have so many tangible problems, and giving them anti-depressants won't solve those problems on its own.

Often in the mental health circle you see people recommending meditation as the antidote for monkey mind. And that's not bad advice, there is empiracle evidence that supports it. The reasoning behind meditation being seen as an escape from the Default Mode Network is the simple fact that things like breathing exercises and contemplation help relax the body and that inward reflection can silence the constant chatter inside.

But then there's me, who's shilling the exact opposite of meditation--bombarding your mind with insane amounts of mental stimuli. Whereas meditation is a way to empty the mind and soothe your thoughts, flow state is your mind handling the maximum amount of information that it's physically capable of.

The most fascinating thing about flow state by far is how your brain uses branch prediction to compute information. Earlier I mentioned that our bodies reinforce our habits through a sort of biological branch prediction, but during flow state, you can process information at blistering speeds using the same idea. How do I know this?

Because during flow state, the part of your brain that plans things, makes decisions and thinks ahead--the prefrontal cortex--is bypassed.

During flow state, a person goes straight from receiving stimuli to execution--the entire cognitive process of thinking about something is thrown out the window. This is not to be confused with hypofrontality, which is when the prefrontal cortex isn't working properly due to illnesses such as schizophrenia. However, the bypassing of the PFC seems similar to hypofrontality but with completely opposite results. A person experiencing hyporfrontality is incredibly impulsive as their brain isn't properly using the PFC to think critically about their decisions. Although flow state is sometimes called "transient hypofrontality," as it's physiologically the same as hypofrontality but only for a brief, transient moment.

However, unlike with normal hypofrontality, during flow state the PFC is bypassed and instead branch prediction kicks in to allow you to process information and make calculations at a speed of only a mere 13 miliseconds. To put into perspective how fast that is, the blink of an eye is about 350 miliseconds. Another thing that occurs is that our brains switch from beta waves to alpha theta (AT) waves. I won't go much into alpha waves, but theta waves are what largely link creative processes from separate and distant parts of the brain, so this shift in wavelength makes it substantially easier to compile creative juices so to speak.

Another thing that happens is you block out outside information, so a person deep in flow state will lose track of time and not notice things happening around them because that's just how focused they are. It can get so intense that you might not notice if your surroundings were on fire because 100% of your attention is on the task at hand.

Now, enough about what flow state is... how do you cause it?

Turns out, a metric shit-ton of research has already been done on this topic, but it looks like this: Push yourself to doing a cognitively-demanding task that is reaching the upper limit of what you're capable of for an extended period of time.

What does that mean? It means that if the task is even slightly too easy, you slip into boredom; and if it's slightly too difficult, it becomes anxiety.

However, I've always thought that the greatest and most potent form of flow state was when an unfathomably huge challenge was being tackled by someone with equally unfathomable skill. Technically if we look at proportional abilities, you don't have to be skilled at something to enter flow state; the task at hand merely needs to be perfectly matched with your current skill level.

However, I feel like the more skilled a person is at, say, a fast-faced and highly-competitive activity, the more muscle memory and branch predicitons will be at their disposal during flow state--and the harder the task is, the more information they'll have to process during hypofrontality.

An excellent example of this is watching two chess grandmasters of 2400 ELO or higher competing against each other during a blitz match (blitz matches are when you only have a few minutes on the clock and both players have to make their moves before running out of time, and if you run out of time you autmoatically lose). Both players posess unfathomable skill, however they're each playing against an unfathomably difficult opponent. I believe flow state is wide-spread in high-ranking competitive chess play, as well as esports.

I've found a few ways to reliably induce flow state on myself; one is playing a little game called Devil Daggers.

Devil Daggers is an arcade-like game where you have no lives; you spawn on a platform and endless waves of enemies are thrown at you until you  touch something, then you die. There is no way to beat the game, only the person above you on the leaderboard, as the goal is to survive as long as possible. The competition is so fierce that the leaderboard will distinguish score time down to the exact millisecond, as a single milisecond can put you above or below another player's score.

 

In Devil Daggers, there's a ridiculous amount of management. This is because there are a few specific "enemy" types, if you will. Here's how it works:

You have infinite amunition, so to speak. However, your range attacks start off relatively weak. They get stronger by killing spawners and special enemies who drop crystals. When you collect these crystals, your attack becomes stronger. However, the crystals float towards you when you aren't shooting, and they float away when you are. So you can't just hold down "fire" the entire time, otherwise you won't get any crystals and you'll stay weak and vulnerable. But you need to basically be constantly firing because there's such an overwhelming number of enemies after you.

The spawners arrive and they spawn a group of skull enemies that chase you down. If you touch any, you die. Also, they're faster than you. So you want to keep the horde of skulls from getting too big or too close because it's easy to get swarmed and killed. But you also want to take out the spawners as fast as you can, otherwise they'll keep spouting out more skulls forever until they're destroyed.

Then the giant spiders show up, and the giant spiders will eat all of your crystals (which prevents you from levelling up) and not only does it eat them, but it will turn them into spider eggs which, when hatched, will spew out tiny baby spiders all over the arena. The giant swarm of tiny spiders is very fast and can quickly cover every inch of the arena if you aren't careful.

Then the giant flying centipedes arrive, and they are packed with crystals. They're super hard to kill because you have to shoot all of the crystals in their body and if even a single one remains they won't die. The good thing about these enemies is if you kill them they drop tons of crystals to make you stronger, but the bad news is they take up a ton of space, can come up from the ground out of nowhere, and of course if it touches you then you die.

There are more enemy types like the thorns and the Leviathan but I won't really get into those. You have only one weapon at your disposal which is your hand, which shoots bones out of it once you start the game by touching the devil dagger. If you hold down the fire button it fires in a stream like an automatic weapon, but if you just click once it fires like a shotgun, giving you the ability to swap between automatic or shotgun fire on the fly. You can also fire off at the ground to rocket-jump or send richochet. However, when you hold down the trigger the crystals will slowly float away from you, and they float towards you when you aren't firing. This is a clever sort of "reload" mechanic, because you never actually have to reload--you can keep holding down the trigger forever if you wanted to--but in doing so the crystals will only get further and further away from you, so you have to choose when to fire to kill enemies and when to stop for a second to collect crystals.



 
The entire arena is just a small round platform, so you have to be careful not to fall off. So then your priority for survival becomes, in no particular order:
 
  • Don't let any of the skulls touch you
  • Don't let the swarm get too big
  • Don't forget to take out the spawners or the swarm will get bigger
  • Don't forget to take out the spiders or they'll turn your crystals into eggs
  • Don't forget to take out the centipedes or they'll hog the arena and you'll never upgrade your weapon
  • Don't hold the trigger down too much or the crystals will float away
  • Don't fall off the edge

Basically you have to try to do all of these things at the same time and should you make the slightest error or lapse in judgement it's back to the beginning. As soon as you touch anything or anything touches you it's over and you die.

How long you last is entirely dependent on split-second decision-making and with so much to keep track of in so little time, and it perfectly scales to a player's skill. The game gets harder the longer you survive, spawning stronger enemies and more of them, meaning it largely scales to a player's skill. Because the game's difficulty increases at roughly the same rate a player's skill will increase, it matches that chart above where we see how Flow State is entered when the difficulty of a task is perfectly matched to the skill of the person carrying it out. If a task is too easy, you slip into boredom, and if it's too difficult you aren't engaged and instead feel either anxious or apathetic.

Not to mention, Devil Daggers has a leaderboard that teases you with tiny fragments of time, but it does something else that's interesting--it uploads the replay of your best run whether or not you want it to. This means that there are no trade-secrets, the best player in the world has his best gameplay uploaded on the leaderboard for everyone to watch if they'd like, allowing people to figure out tricks and techniques by watching the replays of players who are better than them. This goes both ways, whenever you beat your previous record the recording of your play will be added to the leaderboard next to your name.

This involintary publicity creates a sort of community in that everyone who's ever played the game has a spot somewhere on the leaderboard with a video of their best score right next to it. You can't talk to the other players as their is no chat function, so essentially the only connection players have with each other is the leaderboard and their replays.

Another game that's frequently caused me to enter Flow State and one that I've mentioned positively before is Celeste.

The brutally difficult platforming and tight controls make for a fast-paced and intense experience that's easy to get lost in.

 




There's something euphoric about the rush of mental stimulation experienced during Flow State. I can only imagine the intensity that esport players in the highest upper echelons feel during the highest levels of play.

The first example that comes to mind for me is seeing how Hungry Box managed to beat Armada in Smash Melee using Jiggly Puff. To the average onlooker, it just looks like he's floating around and easily dodging the attacks of Armada's Fox, but in reality he's made it look easy through thousands of hours of trial and error. Behind the scenes, if you look on YouTube, there are hundreds of videos from various events and tournaments where he gets his ass handed to him routinely just for making the tiniest imperfections in his play. Sometimes a single pixel is enough to determine victory or defeat.

A professional Mortal Kombat 11 player named Brad Vaughn spoke out about this subject. After placing between 9 and 12 in the Chicago tournaments, he made a statement about the mental health of pursuing becoming a profesisonal esport player.

To praprase, he essentially said, "Everyone thinks it's the most fun job ever--you get to play a video game for a living. But in order to keep winning tournaments (and by extension, making money and paying your bills) you have to practice non-stop. Because if you take a break for too long, you might get rusty--and what if the other guy isn't taking a break? If you take a break, he might be training twice as hard. I'm taking a break from Mortal Kombat because it's become increadibly stressful."

One thing that's fascinating is how certain music can help induce flow state, and while Devil Daggers does nothing of the sort, Celeste does by design. In a video essay titled The Anxiety of Celeste and its Music, GameScoreFanfare dives into the compositional methods used to induce specific emotions and levels of focus across its levels. The video is linked below:

 

He aptly refers to a 2004 study in which researchers had two groups of test subjects play an old iteration of Doom. The first group played with the high-intensity music and the second group played without.

What the researchers found was that the two groups performed the same for the most part, however the group that played with the music had much higher cortisol levels. This would imply that while it didn't affect their performance in this specific game, the mere difference of hearing the intense soundtrack was enough to affect them phisiologically.

To summarize the video above, there are two kinds of stress, eustress and distress. Most people know what being in distress is; it's being overwhelmed with negative stress. But its cousin eustress is talked about far less frequently. Eustress is a positive, engaging form of stress, which refers to how a person feels when their body and mind are technically under stress, but happy about it and enjoying it. When you cram out an intense study session and you know you're guaranteed a good grade, that euphoric afterglow you feel would be eustress. Exercising for the first time can be distressful, but for those who exercise regularly, they feel eustress. The physical strain being put on the body actually feels... enjoyable.

Celeste's soundtrack has a lot in common with lofi-hip-hop, and lofi tracks are generally good at pulling you into a state of relaxed concentration. Look no further than this song for evidence of that and you'll see precisely what I mean:


These kinds of tracks are oozing with relaxed, focus-inducing melodies. They're also widely accessible and typically have no lyrics, making them multi-cultural in their effect. Since the laws of what notes and types of sounds induce what physiological changes in the human body are universal regardless of culture or upbringing, these types of things work on just about everyone.

Celeste's soundtrack does a wonderful job of first lulling the player into eustress and then gradually increasing into mildly distressing territory, just enough to help push them into flow state. The difficult platforming and tight-controls make it really easy for this to happen, and once you really get into it it's hard to get out.

That being said, the main factor in what types of games might enduce flow state isn't difficulty. Otherwise, it should be just as easy to enter it playing any challenging game. But I don't think I've ever entered flow state playing Dark Souls, and the reason why that likely will end up being the case for most players is because the game is slow and more tactical rather than requiring the super-fast precision of Devil Daggers or Celeste's B and C-side levels. The difficulty in Dark Souls comes from the mystery and lack of information presented to the player, as well as learning the intricacies of its deep combat system, not purely from speed and precision. Perhaps something like Sekiro or maybe Bloodborne would be a bit more likely to enter flow state in while playing since those games are faster and require more aggressive timing than the Souls games, escpeially Sekiro.
 

With that said, why might someone want to experience flow state in the first place other than to increase their cognitive performance in the task at hand?

It turns out there's a large roster of long-term benefits associated with flow, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Increased emotional regulation
  • More enjoyment derived from the tasks at hand
  • More intrinsic motivation to continue later on
  • Increased creativity
  • Faster learning and skill development

This isn't one that most sites or articles list as a benefit of flow state, but I have the sneaking suspicion it also helps with identity maintenance. To clarify, most of the time the phrase "identity maintenance" really means "persona maintenance", because it's referring to a person's indentity in a social group, AKA the persona they exhibit; when I say identity maintenance, I mean maintaing sanity by understanding yourself and your identity, not where you fit in socially.

The reason I believe this is because engaging in things you actually care about and enjoy can reinforce the quirks of your identity that lead you to like them. An artist being highly engaged and focused on their art on a regular basis reinforces the parts of their personality and identity that lead them to enjoying art, and perhaps the simplest way for someone to maintain their identity is to simply engage with it frequently.

If you ever feel like emptying your head or meditating isn't making the monkey mind shut up, consider trying the complete opposite and engaging so heavily in a cognitive task that the rest of the world just fades away.


And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Why the Idea of Soulmates is Unromantic Idiocy

This Valentine's Day I'd like to be a salty cracker and crap all over the idea of soulmates, but when I explain the real situation I think you'll come to find that the idea of soulmates isn't nearly as romantic as decades of cinema, poetry, and crappy radio hits have led us to believe. I'd go so far to say that the actual seemingly-bland reality is much more romantic when examined properly.

In order to understand why the concept of soulmates is aggressively unromantic, we need to define it first. Some might affectionately refer to their partner as their soulmate with the implication being that they ended up together and are a great match. Nothing wrong with that. If that's the case, then of course soulmates exist. When I say "soulmates" what I'm referring to is the nebulous idea that every single human being on the planet has a person crafted perfectly to their own personality and liking, who would be perfect for them in every single way because they're destined to be together; they're each-other's one and only.

To grossly over-simplify all human beings, let's recklessly cram them all into two narrow categories; those with "destiny" mindsets and those with "growth" mindsets.

I didn't coin these by the way, please refrain from going to the comments section and screeching at me that I stole this idea from (insert some other content creator here).

Those with destiny mindsets are those who essentially believe in soulmates. They believe that everything will work itself out and their beloved one-and-only will end up with them eventually. These people tend to have short, passionate flings that quickly dissolve the moment the going gets rough. Why? Because they sort of expect their partner to be perfect, and if they aren't (when they aren't), they simply believe that they've got the wrong person and that this person they're currently dating must not be their true soulmate. Those with destiny mindsets are much less likely to work hard in relationships because they believe that if it's their destiny to be with this person that things will just conveniently work out.

Those with growth mindsets are the complete opposite, they believe firmly in mutual trust and understanding and in tackling problems together and making compromises based on the other person's needs. A person with a growth mindset is significantly more likely to have longer-lasting relationships because they don't expect the universe to deliver a flawless soulmate on their doorstep, and instead they acknowledge that both partners have to make a strong effort to make a relationship work well in the long run.

To some the growth mindset sounds very dry, pragmatic and unromantic, but it's not.

The destiny mindset is really selfish and stupid if you think about it; it's essentially believing that the universe spawned a perfect being into existence who isn't allowed to be happy with anyone else since they were created for the sole express purpose of gratifying you. There's a sense of entitlement that comes from people who strongly and fervently believe there's a soulmate out there waiting for them, and even if we could quantify and measure someone's compatibility with someone else and found a perfect match, the odds that they are just sitting at home sighing into the wind and longingly looking at the stars waiting for you to come along are zero. And odds are, the more attractive, funny, and successful they are in life, the more suitors they will have, so they're likely putting themselves out there and trying to find a good match for themselves.

I've also noticed the trend of people with destiny mindsets not caring whether they're offering the very thing they want. They want a soulmate who conveniently happens to be wealthy, attractive, funny, etc., but never once stop to ask themselves if they offer all of those same qualities. Because one has to be exceptionally naive and kind of selfish to think that a hypothetical perfect person that they'd want to marry would be mutually interested in them for no apparent reason. It's an example of the protagonist effect, where people see themselves as the main character in their own romance story, so naturally there's no need to worry about what they bring to the table--they just assume that there's someone out there who would be perfect for them, and they don't need to wonder if they measure up to this hypothetical soulmate's standards because they're the main character, after all.

The growth mindset on the other hand is much more wholesome. It involves two people taking each other as they are, and working hard to understand the other person's intricacies, needs, and wants; and an unspoken rule that they will both continue to provide for what the other person needs emotionally, financially, and romantically. It also means helping them iron out some of their worst tendencies and bringing out the best qualities they possess by being supportive and constructive without being cruel or overly-critical. No matter what shitty things happen at work or university, they can come home and rely on the other to be their sturdy foundation that they can always count on for support and affection. It's a two-way street, and they're also ready to be that sturdy or compassionate companion if their partner needed it.

The growth mindset doesn't mean just taking any random bum off the street and trying to mold them into perfection, but it does mean making compromises and extending a great deal of empathy to your partner's needs, while simultaneously knowing you can count on them to care just as deeply about your own issues and needs. It involves taking someone who may not be completely ideal, but seeing that they're doing pretty decent and have most of the same values as you and saying, "Good enough."

With all that said, how many people do you think believe in soulmates?

10%?

20%?

40%?

60%?

Try 79%. That's right, basically 8/10 people (Americans at least, as the study was done in the US) believe in soulmates who they will end up with because of the forces of destiny.

But that feels so... cheap. It's like starting a tough puzzle and immediately looking up the answer in the back of the book before even attempting to solve it yourself.

What's so romantic about soulmates? What's romantic about a person whose sole existence is to gratify you? What's so romantic about not working together as a team in relationships to improve each other, and instead relying on the universe to make everything right?

It feels lazy and selfish to me.

You know what's romantic? Two imperfect human beings taking the time to really understand each other on a personal and intimate level, being unabashed about their flaws and gracefully patient and understanding of their partner's issues. Starting off with humble beginnings and cultivating something beautiful through hard work, loyalty and honesty.

True love is steadfast, studious, and pragmatic in every way it can. It's messy and completely unromantic by Hollywood standards, and that's what makes it so special.

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.






Source: Raymond Knee, University of Houston; https://www.people.vcu.edu/~jldavis/readings/Knee_1998_implicit_theories.pdf

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Beautiful Ones


I've been thinking a lot —probably overthinking—about the differences between Orwell and Huxley. The novels 1984 and Brave New World are very similar in many ways, but it's the differences between the two that fascinates me most.

I'd also like to point out that while 1984 absolutely deserves the attention and recognition its received, Brave New World is deserving of the same treatment. I say this because as 2020 proves to be more and more dystopian, people keep crying out, “Orwell was right all along!”

There are many elements of what Orwell feared being integrated into the current modus operandi, but I'd say that it was actually Huxley, not Orwell, who was right.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman observed:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books; what Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, because there would be no one who wanted to read them.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us; Huxley feared that the truth would be lost in a sea of irrelevance.

Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture; Huxley feared that we would become a trivial culture.

In 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain; in Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.

In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.”

What Neil Postman observed in the passage above was that Orwell was concerned about the possibility of force being used to silence and control entire nations, but what Huxley feared was that force would not be necessary, because a hedonistic society would be so apathetic that they wouldn't even resist to begin with.

Although one observation that I'd like to posit is the possible and likely theory that Huxley's predictions will beget Orwell's predictions. There's this old saying; hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times, and so the cycle goes. We witnessed this very process in the rise and fall of the Greek empire, and our contemporaries have this nasty habit of never thinking history will repeat itself. "That sucks for them, but good thing I live in this modern era where something like that could never happen to me." I don't think anyone literally thinks that consciously, but I see very few people who seem even remotely alarmed by the possibility. It seems to me that nearly everyone carries the sentiment above without being entirely cognizant of it.

We are (or at least were) in the good times. We've reaped the rewards of all the people before us. Each of our grandparents lived in harsher times than we have, and their grandparents lived in harsher times than them, and through the collaborative efforts of millions of people, the people before us managed to create everything.

There's this common misconception that this generation, as the most “advanced” one, is the most intelligent one, and that hundreds / thousands of years ago the average person wasn't as intelligent as the average person today.

But this couldn't be further from the truth; because we weren't intelligent enough to invent all of these wonderful things and advancements we use, the people before us were. There's this ancient Chinese proverb: “No kingdom can flourish unless the people are willing to plant trees whose shade they know they will never get to sit in.” I think I butchered the translation, but that's the gist of it.

The generations before us were willing to sacrifice their own comfort, time, and likely sanity so that we can have all of the comforts that we have at our disposal. Through a labor of love, they went to the deserts of woefully underdeveloped social systems and planted numerous trees knowing that they would never get to reap the benefits of doing so, but their grandchildren and great grandchildren might. And now we have an overabundance of metaphorical verdant fields and trees, but instead of planting more trees for our future generations, we lounge around in the shade, point to one spot where the sun is seeping through, and curse our ancestors saying, “They missed a spot.”

Then when the going gets rough and the trees start to wither up and die, we complain about it instead of watering them and planting more.

There's no shortage of criticisms on post-modernism's effects on western society, but I'd like to tackle a different angle. Many of the complaints leveled at western civilization are actually just complaints about the symptoms of our culture and not the underlying disease. One might complain that people are shallow and superficial, another might complain that celebrity worship is pointless and fake, another that (insert young generation) is lazy / unskilled or unknowledgeable.

But amid all these valid frustrations is the aggregate of all these problems—the philosophy and way of life known as hedonism. Hedonism is inherently narcissistic; it's the belief (conscious or unconscious) that one should structure their life around seeking pleasure. This does not necessarily have to be physical, but often is. The obvious offenders would be things like drugs, sex, alcohol, et cetera, but there's a whole myriad of subtle things that fly under the radar. Fast food for example; one might say, “I don't smoke because it's damaging for your health,” then proceed to consume copious amounts of McDonalds. I admit that a little part of me is that way—I would sometimes enter a 7-Eleven, see the vast wall of various cigarettes on display, and pat myself on the back for being a non-smoker, just mere moments before buying a greasy slice of pizza or chicken wings.

Although the worst offenders are far more subtle. In my humble opinion, the worst offender is quite literally just leisurely time. But before you grab your torch and pitchfork, hear me out.

I am not implying that a person relaxing is more dangerous than a person doing drugs. What I am implying is that most people understand that drugs are dangerous, but because no one thinks relaxation is dangerous, its effects are unnoticed. Or perhaps saying too much relaxation is bad isn't accurate, and more accurate would be, "Too much relaxation with no duties is dangerous." This implies that it's not necessarily the relaxation itself that's dangerous, but rather the absence of duty and responsibility.

What I've observed is that there are massive quantities of people who only survive, and it's vital to understand that "surviving" is not synonymous with "living."

There's this one anime series that explores this difference very well, and it's called Log Horizon. In Log Horizon, everyone has all of their basic needs met. No one can die or feel pain, no one can starve, everyone is, for all intents and purposes, immortal.

What this initially leads to is a lot of people who don't know what to do with themselves. In the past, they would have had to worked for food, and the possibility of death was always a looming reminder of their mortality. But now that they don't have to worry about every dying or needing sustenance, things should be great, right?

Well, no.

Here's some historical context that shows the parallels between this show and the real world; before the advent of agriculture, individuals only had time to survive, and no time for any hobbies or leisurely activities. 100% of their time and attention was devoted to maintaining shelter, hunting and gathering food, acquiring drinkable water, and overall just not dying. They had no room for any other thoughts or behaviors.

But then, with the development of agriculture, it was discovered that one person could proficiently generate much more food than he himself could eat, and in doing so could free others to invest their time in other pursuits since they wouldn't need to worry about food if a handful of farmers could feed entire populations.

This process was repeated with everything; it was done with water in the form of irrigation, it was done with children in the form of public schools and daycare, it was done with trading with the arrival of currency and marketplaces, it was later done with the mass exchange of goods with vehicles and transportation, then with food again with slaughterhouses, and so on and so forth until every facet of human survival has been dwindled away.

It is now, for all intents and purposes, essentially impossible to die of natural causes before an elderly age without either human error or powerful afflictions. While we aren't literally immortal, the same problem from Log Horizon has come for us.

We have all of our basic survival needs met.

Yet, in the past each advancement in making survival easier freed up time for individuals to pursue other worthy ideals and goals, from exploring the arts and humanities to the sciences, medicine, philosophy, and the expanding market of inventions. We saw the renaissance boom into existence during the 1300s right after the end of the dark ages; prior to this, Europe was shattered by so many wars and plagues that survival was the only attainable goal for most people, and once these issues subsided the populace was free to explore the arts.

With this new-found free time, people began to reflect on themselves and their surroundings. It was all very odd and unusual to not have to worry about surviving every moment of every day, and for once they were able to indulge in a modicum of novelty for once. During the rise of these good times, they pursued things like knowledge, artistic craftsmanship, religion, invention, and the clash of ideas was always a prevalent undertone.

However, in the 21st century things didn't pan out this way. After WWII, sensationalism came to the forefront. And there was nothing wrong with this at the time; we saw lots of good music and television come out of these years. But it was the response to these that gave way to problems.

Ingratitude.

The adults who survived the world wars were grateful for the new technologies they had--for the first time they were able to see the wheels of progress churning.

But we've optimized too far; in a video by Mark Brown from Game Maker's Toolkit, he explores how game developers protect the players from themselves. Why would game developers need to do this? Because the developers would design a game with a certain method of play being the most fun or enjoyable way to play through it, but the players wouldn't do the most "fun" way of a playing these games. Instead, they'd optimize all the fun out of it. In games where the fun is in taking risks, they'd play it safe, focusing--not on having fun and enjoying the experience--but on winning as fast and efficiently as possible.

So instead of taking their time and enjoying the game, players would use repetitive tactics, and would always play it safe and focus solely on beating the game with as few failures or risks as possible. But most of the time, this isn't fun. There's nothing fun about only trying to win with as little risk as possible in a game that was designed to be chaotic and risky. Games like Dead Cells exist to address this problem.

"If given the opportunity, players will optimize the fun out of the game," said developer Soren Johnson.

The full video can be found here: https://youtu.be/7L8vAGGitr8

However, I've come to a rather horrifying realization: Have we optimized the meaning out of life?

When the the goal is optimization, and not enjoyment, meaning, or novelty, the only inevitable conclusion is rampant hedonism. Look no further than architecture to see how this is happening.

In his video The Lunatic Responsible for Destroying Every Beautiful City in the World, Thoughty2 dives into the startling history of modern architecture where it recieves an unfortunate downgrade. The goal of modern architecture (post WW2) is pure utility, not quality or beauty. What this looks like in practice is the modern attitude of: "This building doesn't have to be high-quality or beautiful, it just has to meet the minimum regulations." That's why such a large percentage of modern buildings are just big concrete cubes and bridges are just big concrete arcs.

The real tragedy is all this isn't even meeting its stated goal of being utilitarian, as there is greater utility in quality. Going back to the architecture example, the average pre-war house was typically built with brick and mortar. The average post-war house is built with wood and drywall.

The average pre-war brick and mortar house lasts around 120 years, but the average wood and drywall post-war home starts to fall apart after about 60.

That's a serious downgrade, the lifespan of these homes has effectively been halved in the name of utility. What this leads to is a litany of structurally unsound 60-year-old houses that would be cheaper to bulldoze and build a new house than to repair the existing one; compare that to a pre-war home that was built to last out of the best materials available, many of which are still standing tall from the civil war era.

Even if it costs more to build a home like this the first time, the mere fact that it won't need to be bulldozed in 60 or so years and rebuilt offsets any extra cost. It costs around $12,000 to bulldoze a medium sized home in the US, and then you'd have to double the initial cost of building the home if you inteded to rebuild it or a similarly sized home where the previous one stood.

I'm not saying homes should all be made with bricks (especially in earthquake regions), I'm merely using architecture as an example.

Now, we've gotten pretty deep into this subject and I have yet to address the title of this essay, so here's what that's about.

In 1968, a scientist named John Calhoun creates a bigger and grander version of his previous little experiments on mice, which he dubs The Mouse Utopia Experiment. I wrote "experiment" as singular, but he actually repeated the same experiment dozens of times and got the same exact result each time. Others have recreated similar experiments to Calhoun's and also gotten the same results, which are completely terrifying.

Calhoun's intentions with the experiment diverge greatly from what his observations became focused on later; he was not trying to chart the behavioral effects of hedonism, his original intent was merely to study the population density of mammals and figure out how their population size would increase or decrease in response to relaxed living conditions. But like with gunpowder and many others, some of the biggest and most important discoveries are completely accidental.

Calhoun set about to create a utopia for the mice to study their population, so he took 4 pairs of average mice and sealed them in a 9' x 4' metal mouse pen complete with easily accessible clean water, food feeders, tunnels, and comfy nesting boxes.

The mice were off to a great start. Their population boomed and doubled every 2 months. But they prematurely hit their peak population at 2,200 even though the enclosure could easily support as many as 3,800 mice. After peaking at 2.2k mice, their population plummeted into extinction even though all their survival needs were easily being met with no effort required on the part of the mice.

Calhoun's study found that this decline began suddenly and swiftly after 315 days when all of their social norms began to crumble. It first started with the female mice abandoning their young to die, followed by the male mice refusing to defend their territory and both sexes of mice becoming more volatile and aggressive.

Socially and sexually deviant behavior dilated every day, with male mice aggressively mounting other males, some mice becoming antisocial and suicidal, and female mice ignoring their young and grooming themselves nonstop.

The last thousand or so mice were incredibly antisocial and avoided any remotely stressful activity while focusing all of their attention solely on themselves.

Calhoun refered to this last born batch of mice as "the beautiful ones." They spent all day grooming and fixating on themselves, so they were much better looking than the previous generations of mice, but Calhoun notes that they were "averse to any new stimuli" and were "incredibly stupid."

With the provided abundance of food and water, the lack of predators and the lack of need to devlop the skills necessary to collect resources, the mice became increasingly complacent until they no longer cared for responsibility and by extension, allowed themselves to become extinct since none of them wanted to reproduce or raise offspring.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If some alarms are starting to go off, then we can at least thank our lucky stars that we aren't completely fargone yet.

The easiest way to reconcile these findings with mankind today is to look at a few things--of course, hedonism, but also welfare. There's a reason people are often warned not to feed wild animals; because if an animal becomes dependent on a human for food, it becomes infantilized and cannot hunt for itself.

To clarify, that doesn't mean all welfare is inherently bad, but it becomes dangerous once a large enough population becomes entirely dependent on the state for its survival. An infantilized population that relies on the state for all of its survival needs becomes a slave to that state, and is unable to survive without Uncle Sam's direct assisstance. In a way, prolongued wlefare states are actually, abjectly cruel, by coercing a vulnerable population of struggling citizens into a state of complete dependence and reliance, and, by extension, controlling them.

Our pets are sort of forced to love us because without us, they would not survive. In a way, we are God to them. A stray cat or dog born behind some bushes down the street might survive (if some predator doesn't get it first), but a cat or dog that has relied its whole life on its owner for food, water and shelter has no chance on its own. In this same way, a welfare-state makes its welfare recipients dependents who are forced to agree with and vote for (or at least tolerate) everything that state does, because at any moment if enough people stopped supporting it, the welfare could go away and they'd be screwed.

Welfare and charity does have a place in the world, but infantilizing a population of dependents and enslaving them to a political and economic system they might otherwise disagree with under the guise of being charitable and virtuous is not one of them.

And such is the case with hedonism--pleasures and fun activities do have a place in the world, but rampant and destructive self-indulgence is not one of them.

 

I swear this one was ripped straight from Wall-E.

 

Addressing the conspicuous implications of his accidental findings, Calhoun wrote:

Herein is the paradox of a life without work or conflict. When all sense of necessity is stripped from the life of an individual, life ceases to have purpose. The individual dies in spirit.

What this essentially amounts to is the actualization that meaning and purpose is not synonymous with pleasurable or enjoyable. Yet as Jordan Peterson wrote as his 7th rule in 12 Rules for Life, "Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient." We have cultivated a set of social systems wherein it is by default and with no thought or consideration that we take the expedient path; indulge in the short-term pleasures of today and give no thought to long term comittments or burdens of responsibility.

Now, there is one thing that absolutely does need to be made clear; this is not a pessimistic blackpill essay. I consider myself to be a cautiously optimistic person, because being utterly devoured by pessimism and nihilism isn't useful, and neither is blind positivity and slaktivism.

"Why even try bro the world is fucked, there's nothing we can do."
 

There is no shortage of media out there pointing at every little flaw in the world and claiming that the end is neigh, but very rarely do these people put forth any solutions. A good rule to live by is the 80/20 rule, an immutable law of nature. The 80/20 rule can be found everywhere.

20% of the pods produce 80% of the peas, for any busniess ~20% of the customers buy ~80% of the product, et cetera. When discussing problems, it's best to spend 20% of the time fleshing out the details of the problems, and the remaining 80% of the time talking about solutions. Otherwise it just sounds like negative chatter and petulant complaining. 

There is nothing productive in pointing out every problem in the world if there's no meaningful attempt to address them or propose solutions. So that's what I'm going to do here. My next essay will be by far the largest I've ever written; it will be a mouumentally gargantuan essay, perhaps my magnum opus, breaking down each problem I see and analyzing various possible solutions, but it will take an outrageous amount of research because I don't want to push any ignorant views I might currently hold onto the Internet claiming it's bonafide advice. I really want to get this right, so it will be a very, very long time before that essay comes out. I might even sprinkle in some small essays here and there while working on that one.

'til then,

May all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Resolve vs Agreeableness


This is another one of my famous "not even about writing" posts, but I think many of you will find this topic to be quite interesting. Actually that might not be entirely true--there are some aspects of this that apply greatly to main characters, which tend to be an important part of most stories, so in the end it will be somewhat writing-related after all. This post is somewhat political so you can skip the whole thing altogether if you don't want any of that.

The topic of this essay is the two different schools of thought, and to some extent penetrates into "risk vs reward" territory.

In psychology, it's generally widely accepted that men tend to be more disagreeable while women tend to be more agreeable, but these are mostly at the medians and the extremes, and while that distribution of traits is very important, it does not imply that there aren't severely disagreeable women or highly agreeable men.

In order to continue, we need to understand precisely what being agreeable or disagree even means, and whether or not one quality is better than the other is highly subjective.

Both qualities have their advantages and disadvantages; to be agreeable is to be more "fluid" in that you're willing to change your values or actions on behalf of others, and to be disagreeable is to stick to your guns no matter what.

It's easy to paint agreeableness as the virtue of "open-mindedness," as agreeable people are willing to hear others out, to compromise their ideas or actions in response to new ideas and to mold themselves to be better suited to their environment.

But the danger lies in "going with the flow." Agreeable people will "go with the flow," and if the flow isn't particularly good, they'll go with it anyway.

Likewise, a disagreeable person will not go with the flow. They will go their own way and do what they feel is right no matter how unpopular it makes them.

But there is a downside to that, which is that if they're wrong, they'll never know it; it takes a certain confidence and stubbornness to be disagreeable. It also requires an unwavering self-assuredness. A disagreeable person won't compromise for you for any reason--they know exactly what they want and believe and won't change no matter how popular the opposing belief is.

Both characteristics can make fools out of people in their extreme forms.

Let's take agreeableness for example; you might have seen the "social pressure" experiments where a bunch of actors in a group does something that makes no sense to see if the only real person will start doing it too. They usually do.


Now, it's important to understand the real goal of social conformity; it is largely attached at the hip to the idea of Loss Aversion. In psychology, Loss Aversion is the tendency for people to fear loss more than they desire gain. This manifests itself across multiple dimensions of our behavior; for example, the YouTuber Daryl Talks Games does breakdowns of the psychology behind games, and one video of his, this one, to be specific, talks about the reason why players like me gravitate towards brutally punishing games like Hollow Knight, Salt and Sanctuary, Celeste, Dark Souls, Cup Head, Dead Cells, et cetera. And what Daryl discovered is that people who gravitate towards video games with brutally punishing, hellish difficulties don't do it because they really want to win, but because they fear failing more than they desire winning.

Another example of Loss Aversion is the price of items; a person might buy a cup for $8 in a store, but if they've used the coffee cup for a little while, they might--not only not sell it cheaper--but want more money for the same cup later if they were expected to part with it. If they paid 8 bucks for a cup and later were told they had to sell it and part ways with it, they might want $10, 12, 15 or more for it. This is because they place more emotional weight on losing a cup than they do on gaining one.

When it comes to these social experiments, it's not hard to conclude that people don't stand up at the beep without explanation out of a desire to fit in, but rather out of a fear of standing out. The average person tends to lean more on the agreeable side of the spectrum, and social conformity experiments have been done countless times over the course of decades to support this fact. In a situation like this, agreeable people look dumb. The benefit of being a disagreeable person is that a disagreeable person wouldn't stand up at the beep just because everyone else was doing it. They'd say, "Why are you all standing at the beep?" and when the people respond, "Everyone else was doing it," the disagreeable person would say, "Yeah, okay," and would think they were crazy. And then the agreeable people would be in a pickle because they'd start to wonder if they were crazy or the disagreeable person was crazy--after all, they'd have no logical reason to explain why they should stand at the beep.

However, here's the type of situation where disagreeable people would fall behind; you're in the workplace, and it's extremely competitive. Your boss treats you like a slave, and always asks you to come in on days off or stay later than you're supposed to. In that situation, an agreeable person would do better, because they'd put up with that bullshit while the disagreeable person wouldn't and they'd get fired for it. That's generally how these things go; people with power will take advantage of you and if you stand up to them, you'll get fired, making you wonder whether your dignity and pride is worth your job.

But the other issue is when a disagreeable person is wrong. This works both ways by the way. An agreeable person can be gaslit more easily because they're more trusting and more open to accepting other peoples' points of view, which does lead to positive things like open-mindedness, but it also makes them targets and victims of gaslighting because it's relatively easy to gaslight an agreeable person compared to a disagreeable person.

Yet if an agreeable person actually is wrong, and someone points it out, they're more likely to actually recognize their mistakes and admit their error, while a disagreeable person will stubbornly stick to their guns no matter how wrong they are, which is infuriating to everyone around them. But again, this is a double-edged sword, because if an agreeable person happens to be right about something, they can be convinced by others that they're wrong even when they're not, and they're often taken advantage of in this way--hence the gaslighting.

Now, in defense of the nice Asian girl in the video above, if someone isn't a local or if they're a foreigner, they might not know what the customs and social rules are, so they'll just do what others do so as not to be disrespectful. For example, in Japan (not saying the chick in the video is Japanese, I'm just using Japan as an example because of their exotic social customs) it's rude to tip people for food. But the reason why it's rude to tip people is because the employees are actually paid well and don't live off of tips like in the West, so if you leave cash on a table as you leave they think it's an insult to the owner of the restaurant, like you're saying they can't afford to pay their employees. It's seen as condescending.

An agreeable person would have no issue abiding by these little changes in behavior for the sake of respect whereas a disagreeable person might try to argue against the very fabric of the culture's social norms just to win an argument with the disgruntled employee who thinks you're insulting their boss. They'd insist, "But I'm not insulting you, I'm being nice! It's a tip!" but wouldn't be able to accept that, in Japan, it just isn't seen that way.

That being said, this is not an endorsement for total agreeableness. This is slightly political so feel free to skip ahead if you'd like.

Anyway, a part of the culture war has been arguing for complete agreeableness masquerading as "respect," i.e., "Do whatever we say or you're rude and an -ist of some kind." That being said, there are actual hate crimes that exist, but cultural Marxists try to change your culture to something completely nonsensical and then call you rude and insensitive for not abiding by it.

So that's where you should draw the line; it would be rude to leave a tip in a Japanese restaurant, and the employees are paid decently anyway so it's no big deal to restrain your western ways for five seconds and not tip.

But if some small, vocal group infiltrates your culture, tries to change your social rules and then calls you a bigot for not following their rules--when your culture never belonged to them in the first place--you aren't rude for not going along with it.

Alright, rant over.

This whole discussion also plays a large role in college. As many know, I fervently despise the current state of academia, and I've been very vocal about that. And this topic can actually explain one of the main problems with it.

This also goes a little into MGTOW territory (not the toxic kind though) but it all ties together, I promise.

At the moment, women vastly outnumber men in college. On average, about 60% of college students are female with only 40% being male, but the graduation rates are much more extreme. Men are significantly more likely to drop out and quit college altogether.

Women are 29% more likely to graduate college than men.

And what disgusts me is that the mainstream media will use this as ammunition against the intelligence of men, saying that men aren't smart enough or that "toxic masculinity" is the problem. The reality is much more nuanced than that. A lot of it has to do with agreeableness vs disagreeableness. In gradeschool, boys tend to have more energy and like to horseplay while that is severely punished by "zero tolerance" policies that will uproot a boy's entire education if he roughs around on the playground or struggles to pay attention in class. Instead of creating an environment where both boys and girls can learn, they treat boys like defective girls. One aspect of agreeableness that manifests itself early on in development is the importance of grades to a kid. A large majority of elementary school girls said that grades were important to them, while less than 50% of boys said the same.

That's because, to a boy, who's most likely disagreeable as males tend to be, grades are just a dumb social construct and they want to play tag with their friends.

Now, whether they're right about that is something I'll leave to your better judgement, but that's how they think. For better or worse, girls will be better people-pleasers. Sure, there are tons of downsides to this, but in school that's actually an advantage. School rewards agreeableness.

As for the "women are smarter than men" argument, I don't buy that for one second, but there is one interesting piece of information regarding that. While this doesn't account for things like emotional intelligence, wisdom, et cetera, we can still get some answers from looking at IQ distribution among the sexes.

Just a caveat, I don't think IQ is the best way to measure actual intelligence--what IQ is good for is measuring brain "horse power," but that's about it. Take a car for example. One car might have a stronger engine than another, but if the driver of the "weaker" car with the less powerful engine is a better driver, they'd have a good chance of winning a race against a bad driver who has a better car.

That's actually a pretty nasty oversimplification, but that's one of the best ways I can view it. This is an unpopular opinion, but I don't think highly of Stephen Hawking's intelligence in the slightest. He had a massively high IQ, but he overthought basic principals to an extreme degree and came to really absurd assumptions. He thought he was infallible because of his high IQ and thought he knew everything. Interestingly enough, his ideas were at odds with other geniuses like Einstein and physicist Richard Feynman, so before you say, "Stephen Hawking is way smarter than you, you have no right to criticize him," what are you supposed to do if two equally high-IQ individuals have completely different views? Whose side do you take? If two experts entirely disagree, if you side with either of them then you're opposing the other, and I don't think anyone should be above criticism or having their ideas challenged, not even Stephen Hawking. (I'm more of a Feynman fella myself, anyway.) 

High IQ doesn't amount to much if the person wielding it is too cocky, or too insecure to pursue valid pursuits, or plagued with mental illness. Or if they simply don't think things through very well. A person with a relatively average IQ can be much more intelligent than a person with high IQ if they're intellectually curious, humbled before the pursuit of knowledge, have a deep interest for learning and discovering the truth, and study voraciously. In many ways, a person's intelligence is the conglomeration of all that they know and understand, whereas IQ is more of a metric of possible potential. A person with a high IQ has more potential than a person with an average IQ in general, but if a person with average IQ maximizes their potential and the high-IQ individual does not, it becomes a matter of efficiency. Who is using their brain the best? That will determine who is more intelligent in the long run.


Anyway, there is some value in IQ measurement (even if it's abused by pretentious snobs who think IQ makes them infallible or themselves incorruptible). And data like this is the reason why. You see, men are simultaneously smarter and dumber than women. This is because of how their IQ is distributed along the bell curve; women are vastly near the center of the bell curve. Most women are not super smart, but not super dumb either. The IQ of men are distributed largely at the extremes; most men tend to either be extremely intelligent or extremely dumb, with little in between. This also makes sense; the vast majority of extremely intelligent inventors, scientists, philosophers and writers are men, but at the same time, if you turn on Jackass you'll see--surprise!--almost exclusively men acting like fucking morons. Men live in extremes--if they're not brilliant, then they will likely be absolutely retarded.

Just to clarify, this isn't a hard caste rule, just a general distribution. But in practice it is accurate for the most part. Of course there are exceptions; there are women who are extremely intelligent (Candace Owens, Judit Polgar, Galatea van Outersterp, Emily Dickinson, etc.), and there are women who are extremely retarded (Cassandra Clare, Anita Sarkeesian, Alexandria Cortez, that one chick in my history class who thought that the continent of South America was in Africa, etc.), but for the most part women tend to be moderately intelligent while men tend to either be brilliant or slower than cold molasses on a winter morning.

I also find it fascinating how college highlights this; it's really easy to find out who the smart people are in college. It's not through their grades, though. (Exclusively, at least.) On any American college campus, there's not that many smart students, but the smart ones stand out like a sore thumb. (And why the hell does a sore thumb stand out?) The rules for the distribution of IQ among the sexes doesn't apply as much to college campuses as it does in the real world, and the reason why is because only two types of people go to college for the most part.

The first type of person is the type that only goes to college because it's legally required for their job. If they're trying to become an engineer and the job requires a degree in engineering, they'll put up with the bullshit on a college campus just to get their degree and gtfo. They don't care about art appreciation courses or writing an essay on colonialism. They just want to get their engineering degree so they can leave and become an engineer already.

Then you have the other type, and I suppose this type can actually be broken into two, but they both fall under the same umbrella. These are people who are going to college either for a useless degree or have no plans whatsoever and are going to college just because they're expected to and they're "going with the flow."

But then they're predestined to become very lost souls. That graduation date is only going to get closer and closer, and they don't have a tangible goal in mind. One day they think, "I know, I'll major in this!" then the next it's "No, I'll major in this other thing!" and when they start a new class and the professor asks what their major is, as is custom in every first day of class, they'll shrug their shoulders passively and say "I don't know yet."

Then one of two things typically happens; either they pick a major and set their sites on whatever job would come with it, and spend the next 10 years in this random field wondering if they made a mistake, if they made the right choice--or that graduation date creeps closer and closer and they still have no idea what they want to do with their lives. This is because meaning and fulfillment do not come from jobs or majors (although you can derive meaning from almost anything, including your job, but that is not the primary source of fulfillment for most people), they come from a plethora of incorporeal sources. Family, relationships, religion, hobbies, purpose, those are the driving forces behind finding any semblance of meaning, not what major you pick.

So these young, usually not-very-bright students start going to college with nothing at the end of the tunnel. Then when it comes to those who did pick a major--but a useless one like gender studies or liberal arts, or even--sadly--music--they discover that no one in charge of businesses gives a shit about their degree and they just wasted four years of their life slaving away over something so pointless and unrewarding. What I've generally noticed is that young women are typically the ones getting useless degrees, and likely their friends and family misled them into going for it and they don't realize how big of a waste of time and money it will be, and the ones with no goal in mind are the men. Why? Because if an intelligent man is going to college, he's only there to get a mandatory STEM degree like math or science, and only puts up with college because he has no other choice. This is usually the case because men are more disagreeable, so even if family members and teachers in high school try to pressure them into going to college, they don't do it unless they actually have a reason too.

But the handful of men who are agreeable also end up on a college campus, because when their teachers and parents tell them that they should go to college, they just obey and do it, and once they're finally there they have no clue what the hell they're doing. But the reason why so many guys on college campuses are timid, agreeable NPCs is because the vast majority of men--the disagreeable ones--immediately say "Nah, college isn't for me" and start a career, business, or say fuck it and join the military or something. That's kind of the male equivalent of a woman becoming a stripper.

The ones that do end up at a campus--unless they're there for STEM--are only there because they're going with the flow. But you know what? Fuck the flow. What has the flow ever done for us?

I can appreciate the subtle, horizontal subliminal messages here.

 Sure, if some of your views happen to align with The Flow™, that's all fine and dandy I guess, but if almost every single one of your views or opinions happens to align with The Flow™, you might want to ask yourself if your ideas are truly your own, or whether you've just been a Yes Man or a Yes Woman and let the world mold you into a perfect little obedient sheep.

However, let's look at resolve, because this is interesting. It is the title of this post, after all. When it comes to success, you could very well argue that agreeableness is actually a good thing. We've already established that in school, being agreeable is good for passing. Agreeable people are more likely to participate and do as instructed, and will pass their classes. They'll also do better in work environments that promote (force) obedience; if your job demands that you put up with copious amounts of bullshit, an agreeable person might swallow their pride and take it while a disagreeable person wouldn't and would get fired.

So let's say a Chinese girl is raised by a father that demands very specific things of her; from the moment she could walk, she was repeatedly told over and over again that she had to become a doctor when she grew up. If she gets anything besides straight-As he'll explode on her, and knowing nothing else, she has no choice and inevitably becomes the prodigy kid that gets perfect grades. Then she goes to college, studies hard, and after nearly a decade she becomes a doctor.

Here's my question: was her success the byproduct of resolve, or agreeableness?

It's a trick question by the way, the answer is both.

Her life path was chosen for her, she had no real say in it. She was basically indoctrinated since childhood to think becoming a doctor was her only option in life, when in reality she could have been an ecologist, or a hairdresser, or a teacher, or a bartender or a stay at home mom. She could have been any number of things, but didn't acknowledge the full breath of her options because of her childhood indoctrination.

However, becoming a doctor is extremely difficult, and this leads to a conflict: willpower vs agreeableness. An agreeable person will do whatever they can to be a people-pleaser, but what if the people around them are demanding the impossible? What if they're being pressured to do things or expected to do that which they are not capable of? You only have so much willpower, and there's only so much you could take before you snap and go off the deep end. (That's the plot of Office Space and Falling Down, both amazing films.)

"I'm the bad guy? But I did everything they told me to."


However, what fascinates me is resolve that isn't in the flow. It doesn't have to be directly against the flow, but resolve that is completely separate and divorced from any type of social construction, expectation, or obligation.

In "Why You Keep Playing Brutally Tough Games," Daryl talks about the psychology of loss aversion in gaming, explaining how even though not a single soul on the planet asked you to beat Celeste, you obsess over doing it anyway.

Well, not you, maybe you, I don't know if you, the reader who can be anyone, have ever played Celeste before, but the royal "you," as in people in general. (Yeah, yeah, I know, there is no actual "royal you," only the royal "we," but IDGAF.) We know millions of people have Celeste, and that it sold more than 500,000 copies right after release, so obviously there are some people who have played and conquered it even though no one told them to or expected them to.


While a certain amount of resolve is required in order to do challenging things that are expected of you, it's hard to determine how much of it is resolve and how much of it is agreeableness. But that guy who exercised everyday and lifted weights regularly to get ripped? Odds are nobody told him he had to do that or expected him to, but he did it anyway of his own volition.


Nobody told Vincent van Gogh to be a painter (in fact it was exactly the opposite), but he never stopped. Even when he was poor and broken, he painted.


Nobody told the employees at Laika when they were growing up that they had to join a stop-motion studio and spend countless hours making hand-crafted sculptures and moving them fluidly between shots in excruciating detail.


The point I'm trying to make here is that resolve is most bonafide both in writing and in the real world when the goal in mind is something that the person or character is completely determined to achieve no matter what, regardless of whether it's popular or not, but especially if it's unpopular. But it's also one of the major facets of what makes someone human; there's a lot to be said about predictability, both in philosophy and in writing. In writing, if the characters seem generic or stale, the reader will lose interest quickly. They want something interesting and exciting, so if your characters are "normal" they won't even have any reason to really read the book. (Unless it's cleverly plot-driven.)

But in the real world, it's more complicated than that. No one California girl who likes "Disney, adventure and the beach" think that they sound cliche, and if asked why they like those things, they probably wouldn't say, "Because everyone else does," but it's hard to believe otherwise when everyone in a certain category thinks the same. Now, if someone say, liked some popular stuff but also liked a good amount of unpopular stuff, the popularity is no longer a common factor and it's clear that their affinity for some popular stuff is organic and not superficial. Likewise, if someone only likes unpopular stuff, regardless of the quality of some popular stuff, it makes it seem like they're a hipster going against the grain just to seem edgy and unique, which is its own form of trend hopping, where they hop on the trend of whatever is deemed edgy and fringe at the time.

I won't go that much into the writing fiction side of this topic because I already devoted an entire essay to it, and you can find that essay here: https://www.writingislikelife.com/2019/10/humor-tragedy-and-dynamic-story-part-six.html

 (I couldn't insert the link as a single word like I usually can because Blogger is being fucking retarded with the formatting syntax.)

Resolve is one of the most rare and underappreciated virtues; it's an amalgamation of both bravery and determination, but usually requires some level of wisdom as well. The "resolve" character, or a person in the real world with tremendous resolve, has to be at least discerning enough to know that the thing they're resolved to do is worth it and that it's noble enough to justify with their effort.

There are some exceptions to this, of course, namely moral ones.

For example, a person might be extremely hard-working and determined, and maybe they're determined to get X degree in something and will put in tremendous effort and sacrifice countless hours of time, effort and struggle to accomplish their goal, but maybe they wouldn't literally kill somebody. Unlike Thanos from the MCU and Roland from the Dark Tower series, they wouldn't literally sacrifice a person's life to get to their goal, and you could argue that they aren't 100% determined then, but that's a pretty dumb conclusion because you could retort with, "They're 100% determined to reach their goal in the confines of basic human decency," meaning they understand that their goal might be the most important thing to them, but isn't literally the most important thing in the universe, and to apply Thanos-logic or Roland-logic to our real world actions is solipsistic in a negative way, although I talked quite a bit about using solipsism in a beneficial way here: https://www.writingislikelife.com/2020/01/humor-tragedy-and-dynamic-story-part.html

Although that does lead to an interesting question, and this is one that applies to writing fiction too and can be quite difficult to answer.

It's widely known in quantum mechanics that something can not be determined by nothing; with this in mind, what determines what a person or character is "resolved" for? How is their goal decided? Well, in Thanos's case it was just him being a massive SIMP. Because Thanos in the comics was just trying to kill trillions of life forms to impress Death, who of course is a hot goth chick, so he was pretty much just trying to wipe out millions of planets to impress her. I mean, I can't really be surprised, because for a lot of guys there is literally nothing they wouldn't do to get laid, or even just have a slim chance at getting laid, which is pretty sad and pathetic but it's just the reality we live in. Simps are everywhere.

His motives in the movie make no fucking sense because he's like "The universe is overpopulated so I'm going to use my omnipotence to make it less populated" but didn't even put 2 seconds into considering other ways of fixing the problem, such as:

1. Creating more resources.

That's it, that's the whole list. That would have literally solved the problem.

Now, you can argue, "But Dylan, if they took the obvious route there wouldn't be a movie," and to that I say, "That's because his motivations are poorly-thought out garbage and they should have addressed that."

As stupid as it is, at least in the comics his motivations are logically sound. You might think him wiping out planets to impress a woman is ultimate simpery, but at least his actions make sense and there's no obvious plotholes with that.

Now, I think the whole "Eliminating half the population" thing could have actually worked if he made it about consumerism and mass growth. If he said, "When a population gets too big, its civilization stagnates and becomes complacent," now he's making commentary on the nature of people to become lazy and stupid the more advanced the civilization becomes, and is saying he wants to cut the populations in half to force them to be innovative again instead of it being a purely resource-based decision. That would be a little tough to pull off but wouldn't contain any massive plot holes like the current movies do.

Thanos just wanted a big-tiddy goth gf. I get it.

In The Dark Tower, Roland seeks, as implied by the title of the series, the dark tower, which is the entire multiverse contained in a single location, and the reason why he's after it is because he has reason to believe it's being toppled over, and he wants to prevent that because it would literally be the end of all existence if it did fall. So to him, there is literally nothing more important, because no sacrifice of lives would be worse than the sacrifice of literally the entire universe.

That's a motivation that's easy to follow because most people would agree that, generally speaking, it's better to save as many people as possible, and with this in mind the lives of the few are not more important than the lives of the many, which is a dark but widely accepted truth. That being said, while the average person can understand and agree with Roland's motivations, most people wouldn't have the bravery to do what he does, so that's where his resolve really shines. We actually see the same thing from Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero.

Also to any weebs out there who haven't seen any Fate, here's a weird recommendation with a caveat. The Fate franchise as a whole is a steaming pile of shit, but Fate/Zero is an absolute masterpiece and one of the best series I have ever seen, animated or otherwise. You don't need to watch the others to understand it because it's a prequel, so watch it but don't watch any other Fate shows or movies afterwards because they're legitimately awful. The only exception is a spin-off show called Garden of Sinners, and that's only because it was written by the same man who wrote Fate/Zero, Gen Urobuchi, who did Psycho Pass, and because it was also animated by Ufotable and the music was handled by Yuki Kajura. It's tied with Fate/Zero in terms of how much of a masterpiece it is, so essentially these two shows are equally fantastic in basically every department, from writing to animation to music, and that's literally just because they were the only Fate-related series to be done by Gen Urobuchi, Ufotable and Yuki Kajura, the Holy Trinity of anime development. The rest of the Fate shows, movies and spinoffs had poor writing, animation or music, or sucked at all three. (Most of them had good enough music though, but all of them had terrible writing.)

However, this isn't so easy in the real world. It's hard enough in fiction coming up with a good motivation for your character; in my manuscript Desolation's Reach, that's actually my biggest problem. I'm cracking away at it now, but for the first draft my character just seemed to be going with the flow, and that's a problem. As we've established earlier, "Fuck the flow."

If the main character just goes with The Flow™, they exist merely at the whim of the plot and make no interesting or important contributions of their own. You could similarly apply this philosophy to people in the real world.

So it's vital then that our protagonists especially do things their own way for their own reasons. What those things are and why they do them is something you will have to decide for yourself, but it has to be something worth doing.

One of the brilliant things about Don Quixote is that it gave us something that we didn't think was worth doing--buying a suit of armor and gallivanting around the Spanish countryside while acting like a medieval knight--and managed to convince us over the course of the story that it was a worthy pursuit worth doing. That is another sure-fired way to create an interesting and dynamic story; formulate the plot like a persuasive essay.

Make the story seem like something isn't good or is pointless at first, then gradually introduce things that make the reader question their own worldview.

This isn't to say it should or has to be used for political propaganda, rather it could be used for things the reader has never even thought of before.

I've been slowly working away at this "persuasive essay" idea with my manuscript Enid. I wanted the reader to disagree with the main character's worldview on martyrdom at the beginning of the story and then end up agreeing with them and seeing it through their eyes by the end. That's not the main goal of the story, of course, which is to entertain and teach, but it's one of the things that I would like to accomplish with it.


That being said, there is a very fine line between persuasive and propaganda. If the piece of art flat-out tells you what to think or what the "correct" answer is, it's propaganda. If it shows both sides of a nuanced discussion and lets the reader /viewer decide, it's art. So even though I have my own philosophy on the various facets of martyrdom, it's a concept that will be explored very thoroughly and the reader will have to decide for themselves whether they agree with the protagonist or not, because strictly-speaking there is no "correct" answer even if I have my own opinions on it.

One example that does this well is in The Witcher 3 when it talks about something called "The Last Wish." In the story, Geralt makes a wish to a wish-granting being, and the wish is that he and Yennefer--both immortals--will be bound by fate forever. But they also seem to be genuinely in love, so it's not entirely clear whether they have actual organic chemistry or it's just the wish keeping them together. During the quest, Yennefer wants to undo the wish to find out if their love is real or whether it's just the wish, and the player has to make that decision.


I'd like to change gears for a second and talk about where resolve comes from. And talk a little about something I'd call "misplaced" resolve. Something could be considered misplaced resolve if it's only done to protect your image of yourself. Each person has an image of themselves--the way they perceive themselves. And one thing I find quite interesting is how, apparently, people will act--in the future--in a way that aligns with how they perceive themselves. The sad thing about that is that it implies that a lot of the time we aren't making "decisions," we aren't sitting down and calculating the pros and cons of each option and making a choice that way. Instead we're acting within our own boundaries, but simply doing what we think is in-character for us. It's like each of us is in a play and playing the part of ourselves and we aren't allowed to deviate from that script.

With that in mind, I'd be willing to bet a lot of resolve comes merely from people being determined to protect their image of themselves and not step out of line with how they usually behave.

But this has some incredibly interesting implications; this means that not only can true resolve be determined by somebody acting against the social grain, but also when they act against their own grain. Each person has their own ebb and flow, but when someone breaks their usual routine--usually one that isn't working out so well for them--and does something that they never would have done a week ago, that's a pretty strong indicator that they're exercising actual free-will and not just doing what they usually do. It's all too easy to fall into a pattern where everyday is, for the most part, pretty much the same as the last, and the same as the one that will come tomorrow, and the day after that and the month after that, but when people make radical changes out of nowhere, it's proof that free-will still exists and can be tapped into at any moment.

Although with characters it's a little bit different, because you don't want them to be just "random." They should have a set of definable characteristics behavior-wise. Although luckily this whole thing about going against your own grain doesn't really apply to fiction, because unlike the real world, in a story you, the reader or viewer, don't start the story with their birth and sit through decades of complacent average everyday life. You start reading or watching wherever the story starts. So if the story starts with the protagonist setting out on an epic adventure, you get to hop into their life right where the adventure begins, not the countless years before where nothing interesting happened.

Although you still can apply it to fiction if you wanted to; a large part of my next story The Pen Pal is going to be about how his life was so monotonous and boring that he just kind of snapped and went crazy. It's similar to movies like Office Space and Falling Down in that regard, where the vapid emptiness of their lives is what makes them say "Fuck it" and go off the rails.

Although those are movies where the characters chuck-it-in-the-fuck-it-bucket to a comedic effect, while a movie like Joker (2019) does it for a serious and dark tone. (Although Joker is highly overrated IMO, yes the acting was fantastic but the writing was really cringey at times and came across like a generic edgy pity party.)

I think it would be interesting to rename "agreeableness" to something else, let's call it "bullshit tolerance." Agreeable people will put up with more bullshit than disagreeable people, whose bullshit tolerance is 0.

Although, while in theory it would be best to be disagreeable and have 0 tolerance for bullshit, the sad reality is that we don't always have the luxury. Maybe it was hard getting the job you finally settled on, and you barely scrape by as it is and don't have the luxury of quitting to escape the bullshit. A disagreeable person might be impulsive and make rash decisions in the heat of the moment the second they come in contact with even a trace of bullshit. There's simply too much bullshit in the world to say "Screw it" every time you encounter it, because then you wouldn't be able to do anything. I feel like in many ways that's all a homeless person is (in America at least). Sometimes when homeless people ask for me money, I'll offer to give them a lift to the nearest shelter so that they get free food and clothes and don't have to beg on the streets, and they always say no. I feel like that's because they don't want to be a part of society, they've made their bed outside of the system and want to sleep in it there.

That doesn't mean I'm implying homeless people love being homeless, just that, to a lot them, perhaps even most, they will refuse government assistance because it would mean giving up their freedom or nomadic lifestyle and integrating into society by getting a job, being tested for drugs, etc.

I have a theory that homeless people in general are nihilistic, and the bad thing about nihilism is that nothing matters, but the good thing about nihilism is that it means there's no responsibility. A person who has given into nihilistic dogma no longer has to be responsible for anything or anyone. Total and complete freedom.

From what I can see, it seems most homeless people were just normal people who became extremely nihilistic and gave in to that impulse to say, "Screw society." They don't want any part of it. The downside is--well, not having a home or good place to sleep, or any money or sense of security, but that's a price that a lot of people are willing to pay to avoid being re-integrated back into the system via homeless shelter and government programs. The only real good thing about being homeless is that you have complete freedom and absolutely 0 responsibility. You don't have to report to anyone, put up with anyone, pay taxes or give a shit about politics because you have your little corner where you sleep and you don't need anything or anyone else. Because freedom and a lack of responsibility is the only positive thing about being homeless, which is otherwise a terrible thing, I have to conclude that the reason why homeless people often don't want help (unless it's cash)  is because they'd lose those two things.

There's something tremendous and substantial about determination--it's a virtue that's never talked about. We hear a lot about "bravery," which is very important, but very few bring up the link between the two. Bravery is the fortitude to take the risk of starting something, but determination is the iron-will to continue what you've started no matter what.

And that's the ugly side of the coin that not a lot of people want to address. I've noticed in my own life that I am brave (not trying to toot my own horn here), or at least brave enough to take leaps that others might not, but I don't usually have the fortitude to stick with something once the going gets rough. And that's a problem.

The other issue is nihilism, because you cannot be a nihilist and simultaneously be determined to do something. Resolve largely stems from a faith that what you put yourself through will all be worth it in the end, and you can't believe that if you think that your existence is meaningless.

Your goal has to be meaningful to you in order for you to have any chance of seeing it through.

This largely ties into my essay about obscurity, because you have to be willing to be the only person doing something if it's important to you. You can't rely on social norms to make it convenient; if there is something deemed necessary enough to warrant your complete, unbridled determination, you have to be willing to carry it out by yourself if you stand alone on it.

This requires being extremely disagreeable and having tremendous resolve, and the shortcoming this comes with is a stubbornness that could lead to you being wrong. It's possible that you or the character you're writing will be completely mistaken in their pursuit, but they're too set in their path to listen, change course or stop.

Yet, in fiction even when the character is completely wrong, it's much more interesting watching a resolve character who is completely wrong acting out their will than one with no such resolve.

This also applies to the real world... for better or worse. I'm not condoning it, all I'm saying is that being insufferably stubborn and disagreeable is a much more interesting life than going with the flow, even if it makes you a complete jackass.

Wait a second, I wrote an entire post condoning just that, wow I'm really inconsistent 0.o

Let's just pretend I'm not.

The last thing I'd like to talk about is failure. Determination is Bravery's ugly step-sister that no one likes to talk about, and failure is Determination's even uglier step-sister who's shackled in the basement making weird barbaric noises through the floorboards.

Failure is the vessel through which growth occurs; there can be no success without it, and Determination means nothing if you never fail. How can you say you possess great determination if your willpower has never been tested? Without a gauntlet of grueling failure, how can you know what your limits are? How far you can make it?

There's another issue.

The human spirit, body and mind all yearn for stimulation, for a challenge. The human form was precisely designed to conquer obstacles and climb mountains. It needs something to overcome, otherwise it becomes stagnant and aimless, feeling empty and void of purpose. Having a tough challenge to overcome is something we practically lust for by our very biology.

Many people might seem content just taking the easy way out and avoiding any challenge, stimuli or anything that might be inconvenient. In the pursuit of convenience, we've regulated all the challenge--and, by extension--all the meaning from our experiences.

Let me ask you something--do you enjoy any board games or family games? Monopoly, chess, Mario Party, Twister, Scrabble, anything? Or even remotely competent at any of them?

For most people, they'd have a good time playing at least one of these types of games or activities (and all of them are fun drunk, especially Twister), but would you have the same fun if you could only play against 5-year-olds? If you could only play Scrabble, Monopoly, Mario Party, Chess or any other board game or family game with a young child, would it still be just as fun?

Probably not. And why is that?

Because you'd effortlessly wipe the floor with them in every activity you tried. Even if you suck at some of these games, the massive disparity between an even below-average adult and a 5-year-old is so huge that there would be no effort or thought needed on your part to beat them every time.  It wouldn't be fun.

There's no pride or achievement, no sense of accomplishment. If the only goal was to win, then we would all be playing these games exclusively with severely under-whelming players, but the goal isn't to win, it's to win against a worthy opponent.

You wouldn't brag about beating a little kid at Mario Kart, but you might if you beat that sibling of yours who never loses. No one is impressed that you beat Luigi's Mansion, but beat The Radiance in Hollow Knight or Sans in Undertale and now we're talking.

This doesn't just apply to video games or personal goals, it applies just as much to learning. Cultivating a scholarly mind is no easy feat, and requires tremendous dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. The horrible curse accompanied by this is that when you become knowledgeable of certain topics, you begin to see all the ways in which we're being lied to. It's generalized that, on average, you're lied to about 100 times a day, with the lowest numbers being about 10 and the highest spiking to 200 or more. Being lied to 10-200 times a day and only catching a few of them regularly is a pretty bad success-to-failure ratio. However the more you educate yourself, the more of these lies you'll catch, and the more disagreeable you'll have to become in order to adapt. Once wool has been lifted off of your eyes and you discover things you wish you didn't, you have to either blissfully ignore them and undo the progress you've made, or you have to change the way you see and interact with the world in light of this new information. Especially if you learn things that most others have not, because if you're one of a select few who found out something, you can't bring it up without being dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. That being said, there are conspiracy theories out there that are so stupid they should just be ignored, but not every one of them is wrong, and willingly being a conspiracy theorist in light of new information is not something that's easy to do. It means resigning yourself to fighting against something that virtually no others even know exists let alone fervently believe in, and it means accepting the consequence of potentially being ostracized and outcast for this very reason.

"There is no courage, no faith and no sacrifice in doing what is expedient. Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient." -Jordan Peterson

And as always,

may all your cups of tea be your cup of tea,

and I'll see you in the next post.