Saturday, May 5, 2018

Words of Wisdom

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

                                   THE AGE OF UNLIGHTENMENT?

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse and back scratcher 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

Dear (eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies,

"We have the ultimate reason to be anxious. We know that we're vulnerable and we know that we're going to die. —Jordan Peterson. Yes, yet another column influenced by Jordan Peterson.

A mildly anxious and slightly depressed human and his Vulcan friend are sharing a joint in a cargo hold of the Starship Calvin Coolidge.

"Life is just one damn thing after another."

Yes, no doubt about that. Assuming we share the same space-time continuum, it's logically irrefutable.


Life is obviously one "thing" and then another, and then another, and...

I'm speaking metaphorically my bat-eared buddy. Note that the phrase is just one damn thing after another. That is to say, one unpleasant thing after another.

I get that, we Vulcans are logical, not stupid. Here, hit this, perhaps you'll feel better. I bought this Tralfamidorian Tan because I thought it might cheer your whiny human butt up. For the record, your statement still makes no sense.

Life is no more likely to be one damn thing after another than it is to be one awesome thing after another. Life just is. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but, mostly, just another day on the starship CalCool.

So what you're saying is...

I'm saying it's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another. (HT: G.A.)

Geez, I hate Vulcan humor.

I, being me, went looking for the source of life is just one damn thing after another and discovered it's attributed to multiple people (including, of course, Mark Twain) by multiple people.

[Aside: The National Bureau of Literary References recently received a significant budget increase from Congress to fund an expansion of their Mark Twain department. The volume of quotes attributed to Mr. Twain continues to rise at a pace that parallels the growth of the National Debt.]

I did find an attributable variation on the theme. "It's not true that life is one damn thing after another – it's one damn thing over and over." —Edna St. Vincent Millay

Setting logic and logic jokes aside both quotations still ring true. In spite of Johnny Mercer's advice, we do seem to accentuate the negative. Science calls it the negativity bias. Hang on a sec' and I'll go find a respectable looking source I can link to...

That was easy. From Psychology Today (and Rick Hanson, Ph.D.), "The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala... —  uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it's primed to go negative." Why? Well, as you've probably already guessed my highly perceptive Stickies, survival. 

"...humans evolved to be fearful — since that helped keep our ancestors alive — so we are very vulnerable to being frightened and even intimidated by threats, both real ones and 'paper tigers.'"

Considering we've risen to the top of the food chain it's hard to argue with success.

Big But

Beware the downside. Paper tigers are not on the endangered species list. In fact, the web/cable news/social media/etceteria have created a population explosion. 

When I was a callowyute, locally based news (and threats), via newspapers and local TV, were all the rage. 

I'm so old that I remember that when national TV news broadcasts first began they were 15 minutes in length, once a day. You had all of three choices — ABC, CBS, or NBC — and you had to pick one because they all broadcast at the same time and the technology to watch 'em later didn't exist yet.   

While American culture was less coarse and life hadn't yet deteriorated into all showbiz/exhibitionism all the time, the Earth was no less dangerous than it is now. But we weren't followed around by virtual town criers with bullhorns 24x7x365.25.


Merriam-Webster: "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill." 

The ability to perceive the future and prepare accordingly is a powerful gift we H. sapiens are blessed with. Jordan Peterson likes to interpret the Old Testament, and the equally ancient stories of other cultures, from a psychological perspective.

He equates sacrificing to God/the gods with sacrificing short-term pleasure for the sake of a long-term goal. If you go to work/school/the DMV today instead of executing a Wake and Bake via some Tralfamidorian Tan, the future you will thank you.

H. sapiens, it would seem, have known for thousands of years that material and psychological preventive maintenance will getcha a cool phone and stave off Xanax addiction.  

However, the town criers with bullhorns — news media/social media/etceteredia — render the naturally anxious worse and the rest of us unnaturally anxious. Put your phone in a drawer once in a while, go for a walk in the real world, and just – be. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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