Weekly recap: March 2, 2018

I made a few things in the last week, here they are:

“Crying Baby Karaoke: A New Lullaby Canon”


I mean, does anybody ever say they like lullabies? Do we ever experience nostalgia for them? We are soothed by them, forget about them, and then later use them to soothe our own children. Lullabies are at the bottom of the barrel of culture that is intended for children. We complain about being forced to endure kid’s entertainment, but what if we excised it out of our children’s lives?
I’m a pop culture glutton and I wonder how this will be passed along to my children. I catch myself fantasizing about my child knowing all the cinematic classics, ripping through the children’s literary canon, being able to namedrop Miles Davis, A Tribe Called Quest, and Courtney Barnett, having a favorite Sondheim show and lyric, puling off comedic bits and wordplay, being a slight history buff who’s politically literate, playing baseball while being able to site his favorite player’s year by year WAR, and advocating for social justice issues while preparing chilaquiles that inspired him when we went to the taqueria the night before. Oh and he should also have his own unique interests and personality.

Right now all he wants to do is put stuff in his mouth–which is great.

Jacob and Taylor are back to talk about what’s good!

In What’s Happening What’s Up they talk about the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix, as well as the latest film from Ex Machina director Alex Garland, Annihilation, out now!


Taylor Rec #1:

Curling at the Winter Olympics…

I also tweeted out my favorite acting performances in the movies from 2017. Here they are:
     1. Daniel Kuluuya, Get Out
     2. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
     3. Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread


  1. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  2. Brooklyn Prince, The Florida Project
  3. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

Supporting Actress:

  1. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  2. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  3. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories

Supporting Actor

  1. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  2. Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  3. Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name

Weekly Thoughts 14

The final two lists (best films and albums) will be released later this week, but for now the continuation of my weekly thoughts.

Internet as a Human Right

A few weeks back (before the endlessness of holidays and the best of mania took a hold of my life) I wrote about my experience with Time Warner Cable and the weird sort of power that we may now have as consumers and internet users. I promised to write more about that and I plan on doing so now, but first I wanted to give an update to that story.

While I was at McDonald’s, using internet for the cost of a burger and a drink (large, because all their drinks are the same price!), I chatted with a representative who kindly told me I should be able to change my appointment and even gave me a number I could use to get an earlier one. When I called their helpline an automated machine told me that there were several appointments available days before the one they had previously told me. So in the end, TWC helped me out, but only in the light of unnecessary incompetence.

I digress. During my week and a half no internet time I was forced to spend a lot of time in public places using Wi-Fi from places like Starbucks and McDonald’s. The crowds occupying these places were often college students, but there would also be groups of people who would spend hours there that seemed to be homeless. This got me thinking about the ways internet has become so prevalent in our lives and what happens when we no longer have access to it.

For me personally every day life became a hassle, not only was it much more boring, but tasks that I needed to complete after having just moved became difficult if not impossible. Figuring out who I needed to call and what I needed to do was exponentially harder without the assistance of the internet. Now I understand that plenty of people get by without the internet on a daily basis and don’t use Google as a crutch to solve their every problem like I have, but this is starting to become a rarity and I am becoming the norm.

A few years back I read an argument that access to free or cheap Wi-Fi should be considered a human right. In light of my experiences I am wondering if this is not correct and if indeed policies should be put into place to allow people access to good internet use. Now obviously policy is an ever complex thing and throwing together something like this would be complicated; not to mention the businesses would have a fit. But if people are becoming like me and inevitably these people become poor or homeless and no longer have access to internet, their disadvantage will increase, perhaps even to a point where there is no coming back.

Internet allows access to information and it does so easily. Having easier access to information allows one to get things done quicker and when time is freed up it offers more potential for other beneficial tasks, whether that be working more, taking care of kids, or simply finding time to rest. Without internet things become elongated and more difficult to do. If somebody is stressing out because they’ve just been fired from their job and are trying to find work, but can no longer afford internet and have to seek out job through more difficult avenues, they are being put at a bigger disadvantage than another person looking for a job with internet. This will only increase as the web is more and more relied on for more things.

There are places where Wi-Fi is accessible for free or low costs. The public library is a great place, one where I would take refugees to get set up and try to figure out how they were going to make it in America. I have to say, the computers at the library are the absolute worst. They are impossibly slow and so inept that it is almost not worth it to use them at all. Other public areas where you pay for food to get Wi-Fi are nice, though certainly more difficult than home use (no surprise there). All these are lacking.

Getting by in this world is going to require some sort of internet functionality and those who go without will be just as bad off as those without residences or health services. There is no easy way to solve this and proposing government paid internet services is admittedly silly sounding at this point, but I think this is a conversation we need to start pondering and taking seriously. Maybe city-wide Wi-Fi will be the first to come, giving people who can find a way to use it the ability to do so, even though it will assuredly be slower than slow. Maybe charities can begin to offer free or cheap internet cafes that offer assistance in finding needed services. These sorts of creative solutions should begin to be brainstormed now before the problem hits full fledged and we have large groups of people with no idea how to live without the internet, yet have no capacity to use it.

Weekly Thoughts 12

Sincerity in an Age of Irony

The Star Wars teaser was released last week and if it was any indication of how the film will turn out it looks to be a step in the right direction for the series.

The universally detested prequels were released starting in 1999, looking back now this seems to be the most ill-timed period for these films to be released. This was the rise of the internet era, a time where technology quickly changed and shifted the way that we interact as well as the way we discuss things. With the internet came a rise in snark, irony, and viral capacities.

Star Wars as a series is perhaps as sincere as they come, sure there are some parts that are straight up cool–the light saber duels, Vader’s voice, the Millennium Falcon–but there are a lot of things you have to accept in order to fully commit to the series. The first film hinges on the Rebel Alliance exploiting the weaknesses of the Death Star by X-Wings attacking one spot which inexplicably can destroy the whole thing (see, this sentence alone shows that there is no real way to talk about this film without sounding utterly and sincerely ridiculous). Another part of the first film features a tense scene where the characters wonder whether they will be squished to death in a garbage compacter. One of the series’ most beloved characters is a silly little alien who phrases things backwards for no real explained reason. Even the series shocking twist–that evil villain Darth Vader is in fact Luke’s father–feels a little dumb when you think about it. Really? His father? Good one.

If these films had been released in the internet age, perhaps they too might have been ridiculed. After all, the type of nerd who first got into Star Wars, obsessing over each character’s details and backstories is probably the cynical commenter who sits at home spewing hate on message boards all over the net today.

The new films followed this same format, George Lucas gave us new alien characters, more lightsaber duels, and cool racing ships, but instead of falling in love with them we laughed and cringed. And I mean, these were bad, there’s no denying that, but perhaps the time period had  more to do with it than the actual creations themselves. The over the top sincerity required to accept the Jar Jar Binks storyline was nowhere to be found on the internet as it had once been found with Yoda. The Gungans and pod racers didn’t make the impact that was expected. Sure, most of the time they were over the top charicatures more focused on being children’s toys than anything that would hold up at all in the viewers imagination. Yes the CGI and the script were also pretty bad, but these might have been ignorable if the film had not been released into this climate.

This new Star Wars seems to have fixed these problems–or is at least attempting to scale down what the prequels were so guilty of 15 years ago. It’s subtle and smaller scaled when it needs to be. The changes in costume and design are small. The majority of the shots shown are on the simplest planet of them all–Tatooine–the sand covered desert where it all began. Where the teaser does go sincere is in the most heart tugging moments of our nostalgia–X-Wing pilots, the Millennium Falcon, John Williams’ classic score.

Our generation has grown up a little bit, we’re more accepting of sincerity, especially when it’s not shoved down our throats. From the teaser Disney and Abrams seem to be aiming for a Star Wars that fits this generation (it is even progressive in its choice to show a black actor and a female character in its first two shots–something all Star Wars movies have lacked over the years).

I’m still skeptical, we’ve all been burned by reboots enough to warrant suspicion, but for two minutes last week the Star Wars universe was something I was excited to reenter into again.

Weekly Thoughts 11


Technological advances often bring about vast changes in the ways that we communicate; this, in turn, often brings large cultural changes. With any form of cultural change there is a resistance both to the technology and to the unique forms of expression that these new forms can bring. Nobody wants to commit themselves to a form that will soon be out of style–a relic of an old age only to be parodied later–so they do their best to ignore that which is modern or new. Others commit themselves entirely to new technologies either to great avail or to great shame.

There comes a point when these forms enter into a debate as to whether they are juvenile forms of expression or something that can be used in deep or profound or even mainstream ways where culture at large recognizes it as a part of the norm.

Today the focal point of this discussion is the emoji. The emoji is something that is not poised to go away (though it might be replaced) and the question is whether it is something altogether useless or is it something that can be used to contribute to living life in the world?

Full disclosure, I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to these things. I’m not sure I’ve ever used an emoji–I don’t own any sort of smart phone, I don’t have an Instagram account, have never snap chatted, etc…

My natural inclination on this is to reject it entirely. I’ve seen the emoji in use and it feels quite lackluster. Really? Small pictures? People messing around with these reminds me of my high school days where you would send the most abstract smiley faces you could to one another–it was fun for a minute, but it never really stuck.

But that doesn’t mean emoji won’t. I remember my senior year of high school my English teacher declared that our texting acronyms (this was at the first peak of texting, when all the parents would joke about how weird text-speak was. LOL) were actually their own form of poetry. We sort of laughed her off–she was kind of strange after all.

Upon review though I don’t think she was entirely wrong. While a lot of the the texting acronyms (do we have a better phrase to describe this? I swear there is an actual name for this) have failed to remain a part of the larger consciousness (TTYL anyone?) others are relevant and have escaped that connotation of simply standing for something else. LOL, OMG, and WTF are real things now. If a modern poet used them in a poem it still might be for playful or ironic purposes, but at this point I don’t think it would look too out of place.

Emojis could go this route. We never wanted to be poetic, but we altered the way we spoke and communicated. By not intending to be anything profound something can in fact obtain profundity. Kids aren’t trying to do anything special or important, they’re just doing it and this is a form of expression and that makes it work. Layers of meaning upon meaning are being formed later to be used and to be undermined and to evolve the way language and culture always does.

Emojis are so dumb though, right?

Weekly Thoughts 10

The Hate-Read

I have a confession to make.

I struggle too.

I am an advocate for building up cognitive dissonance within the self, creating the ability to accept the tension between what you believe to be true and taking in something that is poised as being the opposite of that. Being able to live with this tension allows one to deal with people outside the immediate social circle, manufacturing mutual respect, and paving pathways to peace–or at least the avoidance of violence.

I’ve suggested before that we should build in a diversity of voices into our lives and the feeds that we consume–whether they be online or elsewhere. I’ve tried to do this, but I lean a certain way and its easy to commit to leaning this way. After all, we like to read things that we agree with. I was thinking about why it is we stick around people whom we tend to have the same social, political, and religious leanings and I think it’s because it is exhausting not to. Being around someone who thinks the opposite of you is tiring, every statement can be contradicted and one must carefully consider everything they say and whether they want to respond to the other. Nobody really desires to live in constant, expressed disagreement. This is why family get togethers are notoriously stressful–that tension is carefully hanging in the balance of every conversation.

I find it hard when perusing my feeds to accept the tension of another’s opinion. I notice a desire in myself to categorize things that appear into two broad places: ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. Instead of dealing with the author’s arguments, I brush it off as being ‘incorrect’ garbage and move onto something I find to be more in line with my already existing beliefs. Again, cognitive dissonance is exhausting.

This lately has taken form in another desire, this I will call from here on out the Hate-Read (yes, hyphenated and doubly capitalized, this is real). The Hate-Read is what happens when one reads an article with the sole purpose of despising it; to set off those little tingles in one’s brain that lets them know that they are not only better than the author but anybody who would actually think this way. Sentence by sentence a righteous anger builds mixed with guffaws at how idiotic that person is for contributing such trash to the world. There is no better way to feel great about one’s lifestyle than to read something trashy written by or about people with the opposing point of view. This is what the Hate-Read is all about.

This is tricky, because for someone who has advocated for other points of view to be consistently present in each of our lives, Hate-Reads can become material to prove to ourselves that the opposite side is completely wrong while also saying that we’ve given them a chance. Then we can go subtweet about how this article we read was so awful and we cannot believe people think this way.

This is the pop cultural equivalent of hating on Coldplay or Transformers, yes we get it they are not that good and may even be posing as thoughtful pieces of art, but spending so much time hating on it is only to make yourself feel good about your superior tastes.

The Hate-Read is out there and yes it happens because some people write some hyperbolic and stupid stuff, but reading stupid stuff to elevate your own pride is just as useless and self-serving.

Weekly Thoughts 9

How to Stop a Dictator: Read This Blog

The other day I listened to this podcast, Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, part of the Radiotopia network (who, by the way, has some of the best storytelling podcasts out there and is highly recommended). The episode was a short one, beginning with an advertisement for Radiotopia’s latest Kickstarter campaign and then continuing into a short interview with someone who works on the show. They are in the park and there is a concert happening, the guest Walker interviews makes a point of clapping nine times once the musician is finished playing. When Walker asks him about this, he goes into an anecdote that has captured my attention for a couple of weeks now. The guest asks us to ponder if Hitler had been able to have a successful art career, whether or not human history goes down in the same way (I think the knowledge that is excluded is that Hitler at least attempted to have an art career and failed). He goes on to give a couple of other examples of people who had failed careers in creative endeavors and later committed horrendous acts. He then turns his attention to the performing artist, saying that we should support those attempting to make art as a way of contributing into their lives as they try to make something. The whole thing can be listened to here.

I’ve been an advocate of this approach, especially when it comes to people you know or are friends with. Creating something and putting it out there takes a level of vulnerability. Even in the YouTube, blog, and podcast era where having a voice is just a few clicks away (this reminds of the Portlandia “DJ Night” sketch–everyone has something that they’re making), committing oneself to creating content and continually putting it out there is difficult. This is why half of these efforts are given up on within a  matter of months–it’s hard and if you’re not getting a lot of positive feedback it leads into this spiraling creative depression and discouragement. The real creative types have a need to express themselves and frustrations are paramount when people just don’t get it. But these people are expressing themselves and trying to do something which I would posit is a better, more active life activity than say, watching cat videos or playing Iphone games. They are making contributions to life and while not inherently good, creativity is a net positive.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room–you are obviously reading this on my own personal blog right now (or more than likely not reading it, if a blog gets written and nobody reads it, has it actually been written?) and so I will throw in my two cents from personal experience. I’m not really going to complain because I don’t blame anybody for not reading these posts or not listening to my podcasts (check them out here and here) they are hardly lucrative mediums and the content I’ve produced is not populist at all. But I suppose there is part of me that wishes there was some sort of reward or recognition for the work that I make. Even when I try to go more mainstream (celebs!) it doesn’t really payoff and when I see others regurgitating simple ideas and expressing thoughts that don’t really say anything, it annoys me.

It’s fine. I get it.

When my friend and I ironically created a Facebook page for a hail storm that happened three years ago, it gained 65 likes even though we didn’t do anything and didn’t try to do anything with it. When I created a podcast where over two years at least two episodes were released per month, 34 people liked it on Facebook. I don’t know if I need to do the math here, but that ratio favors one much more than the other.

What’s with that? There’s part of me that gets it–people don’t want to be spammed on their social media sites and self-promotion can feel nagging and annoying. I have 385 friends and if we’re being generous, probably 200 like me or desire to have some sort of relationship with me. Of these let’s say 100 would have any interest in listening to a show about taking things in pop culture and ranking them in top 5 lists–a silly and lighthearted venture. Yet, 34 of them clicked like.

Despite this complaint–or lament if you will–consuming things takes time. It is often expensive (here is where I again plug my free podcasts) to support people over and over. We are often flooded with options–what I like to call the Kickstarter effect: the result of there being so many crowdsourcing options, one feels obliged to help this or that via Kickstarter, but ends up so overwhelmed that you end up not endorsing anyone. You can’t give to everyone all the time.

There is also the coffee shop dilemma. We should want to support our friends and our community’s local artists, according to our thesis it will lead to a more positive world, possibly life changing for certain people. Yet every coffee shop on every corner on every Friday night hosts their open mic where aspiring musicians come to play and these musicians cannot possibly all be supported. Most of them hardly stand above the fray of any musician or artist or whatever playing in your local cafe.

How should we respond? This isn’t communism, not everyone can be good or worthy of supporting (cue The Incrediblesif everyone’s special then nobody’s special). Is it even right to support and encourage somebody who is not good? (This is the question parents must ask themselves of their not-good children and one that American Idol brought to the forefront with all of its notoriously bad singers).

Either way, I think it’s worth it to support our friends in their attempts at creativity. Life has a way of weeding out the bad and the worst that could happen is that they realize they suck through terrible and humiliating failures, or they become incredibly successful despite the fact that they are no good at all.

In a world–or generation–that is increasingly cynical, steeped in ironic support of the viral, there is something deeply sincere and authentic about the creator and that alone is worth rewarding in some way.

Weekly Thoughts 8

Spanking and a Two-Party System

I recently found out that in the United States, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in school. Now I have made my opinions about corporal punishment here (quick recap: grew up with it, turned out fine, but the way that it teeters on physical abuse seems like a line that is not worth approaching for me, but I still need to do more research) and it seems crazy to me that this is still a thing.

I tried to do some quick research as to what extent this is still allowed, because honestly, it feels like something out of the Charles Dickens-era than a part of our modern day education landscape. I guess this shock comes from being so far removed from that world, here in California where if you touch a child you are the one to get in trouble.

This article here shows that regulations are vague, but apparently there are rules about paddle size and the strength with which you can hit a student.

People who are working for the government, paid to give you education, and also allowed to hit you if you are bad. Basically, the government is allowed to hit you.

This brings up further ideas of inconsistencies within the two party partisan politics that we live by. Most of these 19 states are red states, more conservative and Republican. They want less government  intervention and involvement-one time I even heard someone complain that they no longer were allowed to drive their car without seat belts because of the government. Yet, for some reason they want to allow people that the government has hired to be able to physically punish their children…

It’s strange to me in general that spanking/no spanking ideologies would trend across the political spectrum. I guess it’s just that conservatives want to preserve the old way (hence the name) while liberals are always desiring an advance?

Even with regard to other subjects both parties don’t match up with their general principles. Democrats are staunchly against capital punishment, tend to be more anti-war, and yet are against the pro-life movements (though I suppose this one generally comes down to when you consider the fertilized egg and all its subsequent variations to become a human); the opposite can be said of Republicans, who-being pro-life-support war and the death penalty vigorously. Republicans also believe that the government should give them more freedom to do as they please-unless of course this is LGBT marriage, then of course the government should intervene.

Why should border security and anti-immigration be a Republican ideal? After all, aren’t they the ones who push much harder than Democrats the ideas of the American dream and Columbus and how our forefathers came to this new land? Is there no Manifest Destiny for Latin immigrants?

Sure each side has its reasons for operating the ways that they do, but they don’t always add up. I think that this is the fault of having a two-party system in which everything must fall in this or that category.

In conflict resolution they talk about how conflicts often arise when people develop an us vs. them mindset-well, here in America, we have created an entire political system that enforces this mindset!

I don’t know the reasons why we have this system, I think I learned about it back in high school, but can’t really remember. Maybe there are extremely valid and beneficial reasons for it, but I can’t help but think that political dialogue would generally be helped by changing the system to shades party lines rather than the set system that predetermines your thoughts even if they don’t entirely add up.

Weekly Thoughts 7

Fear Is a Way to Make Friends

Alarm. Fear. Panic.

It feels at times that more than anything these are the driving narratives in our lives.

The world is a mess. It’s in chaos. America is going downhill. The government is just not like it used to be. The world is going to hell in a hand basket. Jesus must be coming back soon because the world is overcome with evil…

We tell ourselves these things all the time. Sometimes they might be in passing–a quick blip from our mouths akin to speaking about the weather or asking about someone’s day–but there are times we believe them. (It would be interesting to go further into whether having and saying these things actually seeps into our general mindset and the actions that we take or if it is literally just a non-confrontational way to fill the space, but that’s not the purpose of today’s writing.)

Today’s news headlines lead us onto a path of imminent danger, though the modern media with all its trending, clickbait headlines, and ratings grabs cannot entirely be blamed for this. Generation after generation have surely had some sort of fear that the world is in utter disarray and being overcome by evil, we are not unique.

But is it all really that bad?

Unfortunately I don’t have any studies or factual evidence to cite, but we can look at broad examples of the world and its past miseries.

There is the Black Death which 700 years ago may have killed over 100 million people in a time span of 7 years.

There is the near wiping out of Native Peoples in the Americas through sickness and war 500 years ago.

There were the Greeks and then the Romans who went from area to area conquering land after land, until most of the world was theirs.

People lived shorter lives and having children was a bigger risk than gambling for both mother and child.

Having any sort of surgery would have been a near guaranteed death.

All of these things point to civilizations where not only was daily life harder, but diseases and conquering people could kill you any day.

We live in a post-conquering world (well, a more subtle conquering exists, but it’s so tasteful) where organizations are put in place in order to keep people civil. This is based in a general, worldwide standard that killing people to take over land and resources is wrong. We have people put successfully into employment whose sole purpose is to try to save and protect your life.

Modern crises markers like Isis and Ebola are certainly reminders that life is fragile, but put into a historical context that includes crusades, genocides, and plagues it really is all mild. As absolutely horrendous as it is to see natural disasters strike, wrecking cities and destroying lives, any number of years ago it would have been exponentially worse. Of course the world is filled with all sorts of tragedy, but compared to the past this is a utopia.

But life is hard. There is no doubting that. And I think that this is the reason that the complaint of the present age is a go-to for us. We want somebody to hear our cry. The tension that we feel in our soul that the world is not as it should be; that it it is not lining up with the way that we have come to expect it should. This makes us feel important in a world that is large and that does contain suffering and we want to feel important. We want to know that our experience is one that is worthwhile. Complaining and fearing and freaking out do that. They point us away from the mundane that is normal life–for most things work how they are supposed to on most days, disaster is the exception not the norm for most people on most days historically–and give us importance.

Perhaps our insecurities and our difficulties and our problems all get extended and expanded into this ridiculous form of hyperbole, but they are only try to calm our fears and explain life in some way that connects us to one another.

So let’s take it easy, at least a little bit, the world is full of hyperbole–less of that please, let’s celebrate the good that exists, but let’s also make serious laments that provide beautiful, flowing attempts to understand the human condition and the battering of the human heart.

Weekly Thoughts 6

A Personality Quiz

I took a personality quiz the other day. This is something I’ve done a plethora of times and I don’t really have any good reason for taking this one. I am hardly the person to go around taking online quizzes, but this one was quick and so I went for it.

As I read my results – or diagnoses, if you will, I began to grasp a sense of clarity. These people understood me, how I felt, my strengths and weaknesses. Oh, that’s why I do what I do. Section after section was filled with the descriptions of the way I act, the reasons why I do what I do, and suggestions for how I should do other things. It was astonishing.

When someone understands you and can speak into that it feels good and despite the context from which it came – the beautifully titled 16personalities.com – it spoke to my deeper sense of being, my soul, or whatever you’d like to call it.

(A quick aside about the results – apparently I’m an INTJ which means I’m introverted rather than extroverted, I lean on intuition, instead of sensing things, I think rather than feel, and I judge rather than perceive. All this thinking over feeling, the head over the heart – someone needs to tell my CD collection which is filled with far too many emo bands. Also someone should tell the me who watches sports games and has an emotional breakdown on every other play. The last thing I want to point out about my INTJ-ness is the figures and characters it gave me as others with the same personality: Putin, Caesar, Hannibal, Lance Armstrong, Walter White, House, Moriarty, etc… I never really saw myself as a super villain, but apparently it’s in my personality! Watch out.)

What comes with all this understanding though is the potential for stagnation. The freedom that comes with understanding who we are can quickly become a cage that we hide ourselves in to protect us from the outside dangers. Finding and putting things into boxes helps us to sort things and make things make sense. But nobody wants to be put into a box. And putting ourselves into boxes only hold us back from growth.

I know that I thrive when I have time to myself. In fact I can dread social interaction, particularly large groups of people I don’t know. It’s easy to blame that on my personality, I could probably point you to the paragraph in my assessment that tells how INTJ personalities find social interactions baffling, or worse boring. But I cannot let that prevent me from getting out and doing things. Exploring the world. Talking to people, real actual people.

Finding out things about ourselves is important, but what if over the next couple of years all of the science behind these personality quizzes is completely thrown out the window and seen as invalid (or maybe they already have been…)?

These sorts of things can help us, leading us into wisdom, but when we set up systematic ways of living based on these sorts of things we are missing out on bigger functions of life. We cannot commit fully to a way of living just because we have been diagnosed with something of the sort. Well at least that’s what I believe or is that just my personality?

Weekly Thoughts 5

Cultivating Empathy While Rejecting the Anecdote

Understanding someone’s experience is important. It puts you into their point of view – their world. You begin to grasp why they say what they say and why they do what they do.

I believe this is especially crucial with those we do not know or who exist outside the main power structures. Empathy is a cultivated skill and the people it should be used the most on is the abused, the poor, the outsider, and the powerless. Their stories often are ignored, further marginalizing them outside the norm. Storytelling can be an empowering process and can help people to know one another.

While I am an advocate for always listening to and respecting the way a person views their experience, I am also against deriving opinions based on anecdotes. It is vital to hear people’s stories, but these stories make up a larger body of truth. Reality is large and almost unknowable, a diversity of perspectives and statistics help point to a broader picture – increasingly fuzzy and complex.

It is easy to take something we hear offhand and to take it as a truth. We hear the story of someone told by someone who heard it from someone and subconsciously our view on that particular subject is shaped. I’ve written about this before, how we need to assure that the voices we take in are diverse to avoid accidental bias; recently though I’ve been thinking about the tension that comes with listening to people’s stories and avoiding accepting anecdotal evidence as fact.

Take for example the recent events in Ferguson where people have rioted in protest against police brutality. My own experience of police officers is great, my grandfather was a police officer, and I’ve seen them take control of escalating situations with respect to everyone involved. They make me feel safe and comfortable. On the other hand, I must take into account the experience of black Americans in urban areas such as Ferguson who say that they are targeted because of their look or socioeconomic status. Their voices must be taken into account. Yet what about the perspective of the police officer as my friend who is a police officer provided his insight of what it is like to be a cop in the comments of another piece I wrote.

I could trust my own experience, telling people they are crazy for thinking any other way, because I’ve never felt that way. I could choose to only listen to the experience of someone who was mistreated by the police and tell myself that all police are arrogant, racist, or power-hungry. I could choose to only listen to stories of people who have been greatly helped by the police and think that police officers are all-around good people regardless of any context. There are many options and sometimes it is easy to choose one and just ignore the rest.

We do not easily accept complexity, we can easily brush off someone’s story when it doesn’t cohere or we can take the story of another and allow it to shape our whole viewpoint. Neither gets us to the truth, but it is comforting and that’s what we like.