Friday, June 7, 2024

You Don't Know Jack...

...but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Image by Colleen ODell from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." 

This one's from 2017 and has also been "considerably edited, altered, and updated." Yes, gentlereaders, I'm still in France. My new friend has persuaded me to stick around for a few more weeks at his expense. 

I'll be returning with him and his family. They've rented a cottage "down the shore," which is how people in New Jersey and (South?) Eastern Pennsylvania refer to the Jersey coast. 

{What's with the (South?)?}

I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia for a few minutes in a past life, which is where I first heard the term, but I don't know if it's commonly used elsewhere in Eastern PA so for the sake of accuracy...

{I should know better, shouldn't I?}

Anyway, I've made him aware it's hardly the South of France but when he heard on the news this week that indicted Senator Bob Menendez is going to be on the ballot this fall, and that his son is running for Congress, he decided this is a state he wants to visit. 

He's been making Tony Soprano jokes ever since. 

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

You don't know Jack. 

It's important, very important, that you know that you don't know. If you know that you don't know, you know a lot more than many people.

Allow me to explain.

Let me begin by endorsing the wisdom inherent in the statement, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."                                                                                       -John Adams

That is to say, the facts are the facts, regardless of what we think they are or want them to be.

"All we want are the facts, ma'am." -Sgt. Joe Friday 

The facts are indeed, the facts, and the fearless pursuit of the facts is necessary if one wishes to know the truth. But the truth is, at best, provisional. 

"Provisional: serving for the time being" -Merriam-Webster

{Awesome, dude, thanks for clearing that up.}

"Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in a woman, never found in a man." -Sister Mary McGillicuddy

Truth is provisional — subject to change if/when new facts are discovered. A new fact may be hiding in plain sight or living in a hut in Siberia. That doesn't bother a true scientist and it shouldn't bother us. Living in a world of shades of gray everything is much more interesting than living in a black-and-white world, which would be quite boring.

"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong." -Richard Feynman, genius and Nobel Prize winner

[In light of the anti-semitism currently making a comeback on woke college campuses all across America I wish to note that Feynman applied to Columbia but was rejected because only a limited number of Jews were permitted to attend "back in the day" so he had to settle for M.I.T.]  

{Can we expect a point or just more quotes?}

I have two points actually (and more relevant quotes). The first is that everything we think we know is provisional, that is to say, subject to change when we uncover new facts. That this is the nature of reality. That while acknowledging this can make you feel a little crazy sometimes, not acknowledging this can get you killed.

My second point is that although we inhabit a provisional reality we should never stop looking for truth, but, a well-lived life requires that we make provisional choices and that we need to relax and enjoy the ride

As to point one, dealing with provisional truth, the trick is to keep in mind that a new fact may leap out from behind a rock at any moment. Cultivate that attitude and remember that there's always going to be more you don't know than you do know. Think like a Buddhist and cultivate beginner's eyes, another way of saying maintain an open mind. 

Pay attention and you'll minimize the odds of being run over by a bus.

 "Our brains are pattern-recognition machines, but not good ones. That's what gets us in trouble. We see patterns where none exist. None of us are exempt from that. But we can use our limited sense of reason to see past it." -Scott Adams

As to point two: Living a well-lived life, of provisional choices.

Just because everything we think we know is provisional, it doesn't follow that this knowledge need reduce us to insecure neurotics fearful of believing in anything. 

Or, worse yet, cause us to declare that "like, everything is like, relative man." The latter is the universal justification for an empty, amoral life with no path ever chosen other than the one that satisfies the appetite of the moment.

God, or evolution, or whomever/whatever, has blessed us. We're not just eaters, procreators and _______, we're eaters, procreators and _______ who are self-aware we're eaters, procreators and _______. 

We can choose to be enthusiastic carnivores or self-righteous vegans (yes, I'm biased). We can choose to be libertines, virgins, or something in between. (No bias, whatever works. But remember, discretion is a virtue and exhibitionism is tacky).  

Now what? Step one is acknowledging the undeniable fact that we have to share the playground with the other kids. This requires restraint, respect, a willingness to live and let live, and never forgetting the Golden Rule.

Irregardless of whether or not you're familiar with the Golden Rule, Wikipedia has a great article that includes versions of it from all over the planet and from all sorts of different cultures that's worth a read and that includes the following:  

"The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one would want to be treated by them. It is sometimes called an ethics of reciprocity, meaning that you should reciprocate to others how you would like them to treat you (not necessarily how they actually treat you). Various expressions of this rule can be found in the tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages."

(My emphasis. I tend to believe that positive affirmations that have survived for thousands of years likely have merit.)

Step two, from the unsolicited advice department: make a choice. Impose a frame. Adopt a working protocol. Decide on some rules. Whatever you say, goes, but only for you. Everything else requires negotiation. 

Choose a goal that will serve to keep you getting out of your warm, comfy bed in the morning and you will immediately feel like you're walking on solid ground. Trust me on this. If you choose the wrong goal, choose another. If you reach your goal, pick another one. 

Simple, right? 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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