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Some perspective

October 23, 2020

seems to be in order

Yesterday, I wrote a post in which I vented my spleen in a way I seldom do. As a sort of self-therapy, I thought it might be helpful to focus on some things far too easily ignored or forgotten (at least by me).

Today, in the US, most of us will never face any truly existential (a currently popular word) threats, with two exceptions. First, of course, is old age. For the vast and overwhelming majority of us that will be unavoidable. Think about that for a moment. Most of us will get sick and die simply because we’re old. Second, some people will also face one or more things that some have termed “blip events.” A blip event might be an unexpected and dangerous disease, a car wreck, house fire or something else. But that’s it.

Instincts and behaviors that were developed and honed on the savannahs of Africa will seldom be called into play in a way that is needed. The instincts, though, remain, including the whole pattern recognition thing. This one is so strong that if there are no patterns to be found, or nothing that deviates sufficiently, we will find something. We’re driven to do that and unless we set out deliberately to control that instinct, we will obey that drive, that instinct. Thus, if there is no movement in the tall grass to alert us to the approach of a predator, we will find something else about which to be alarmed. What this means, I submit, is that most of the time the “exercise” of that instinct is effectively a luxury. I can worry about the way my boss treats me because I don’t have to worry about becoming food for the nearest critter with big, razor-sharp teeth and claws. You can complain about your HOA because you don’t have to light a fire in the cave mouth to keep animals away. And concern about modern politics? Now that’s a luxury. Mind you, I have concerns about politics, but I recognize those for the non-existential luxuries they are.

You see, because of our pattern recognition instincts, we are always looking for the threat. And, if we look long enough and hard enough, we’ll find either a threat or a “reasonable facsimile thereof.” If we aren’t careful, we’ll overlook something important. For most of us, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion or what-have-you, this is the best time in the history of the world to be alive in terms of freedom, peace, crime, health, wealth and equality. It’s easy to forget that, though, because of the instincts. As if that weren’t enough of a challenge, we are faced with people of various ideologies who will take advantage of our instincts. If we can’t find a pattern which indicates a threat, they will happily provide one for us. In so doing, they seek to manipulate us into becoming their puppets, increasing their power and leaving us less able to enjoy being alive in such a time. If you can stomach it, listen into almost any adversarial political discussion and pay attention to how much the partisans differ in the threats they see coming. Now, one or more of those may be relative threats, but they are almost certainly not the existential threats which necessitated our instincts.

“What should we do then, smart guy?” I’m glad you asked.

Unplug for a bit. A day or so is nice. A week is better, if you can do it. Get to know people and interact with them. Family and friends are a good place to start. Talk to them. Even better, listen when they talk. Talk about things that really matter. Talk about lighthearted stuff. Read a book. Paint. Write. Go for a walk or drive. Sit on your patio at the end of the day and smoke a bowl of good pipe tobacco while sipping some smoky, amber-colored liquid. Hell, don’t read that RM guy’s blog for a bit (but do come back!). But start with people.

Now, I think I’ll take my own advice and unplug for a bit.

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One Comment
  1. Old NFO permalink

    Do what you gotta to lower the BP, write your book, get it published and go on down the road. We’ll be around.

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