We should probably all be vegetarian and other cognitive dissonances

I find people are strangely defensive about not being vegetarian or vegan (I’m neither). It’s almost as though accepting that we should probably eat less meat would imply that they are a bad person.

It’s logical in a sense, if you accept that we should be vegetarian, then if you’re not doing that, you’re clearly a hypocrite and just overall a bad person for not doing what is “best”.

This happens with pretty much everything. We have a way of polarizing ourselves, just to justify our decisions. That co-worker we don’t like? Well they must be a truly horrible person because if they weren’t, then we’d be an asshole for not being compassionate towards them. We do the same thing with relationships (I’m no longer with that person, therefore they clearly weren’t that great), and even with COVID (whatever your level of risk, you’ve justified it to yourself and everyone else is wrong).

While you may scoff and say that those things are silly and you don’t do those. You do, even unwittingly (skip to the part about the Monet prints, around 9 minutes in).

But what if you don’t do that? What if you sit with the cognitive dissonance?

Now you probably expect some BS about how that’s true wisdom and seeing the truth behind the world or something. But really, it’s just painful. To be reminded day in and day out that we don’t fit our vision of the ideal world. To be trapped in that self questioning, anxiety and mental anguish…. It’s hard to be judgy of people who don’t want to deal with it or are too tired to deal with it.

It’s not that bad

I feel like everytime I express something that isn’t pure bliss everyone freaks out. Which is strange because I feel like when things were really really bad in my life, I wouldn’t talk about it. Relatively speaking, things are pretty great. I have a job that pays well and is challenging. I’m not in any way going to get fired and the economy isn’t going to impact my job.

There’s like a bazillion things going right, not the least of them that I have a over-abundance of peas in the garden, so you know, things are pretty great.

But that doesn’t mean everything is all sunshine and rainbows and lollipops

Shit happens, and even if, in the scale of things, shit isn’t so bad, as humans we seem to have a bias to focus on the dangerous and negative things (probably evolutionary adaptation). So why not talk about them?

I find it’s dangerous not to talk about stuff. Even, (maybe especially) when we’re wrong about it. How else are we supposed to learn and grow? How else are we supposed to try to feed the more information out to the world to slowly arrive at a better approximation of the truths of the universe?

Anyway, thank you for everyone checking in, I really do appreciate it, and you don’t need to stop. Just understand that maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit 😉

On No Longer Being The Best

I’m currently working on a Django app (written in the Python programming language). It’s my first time doing any real work with Python or Django and it is painful. It’s painful because it reminds me of when I started doing WordPress work. I did everything all wrong, I was hacking core, I was doing these clusterfuckeries that would be shameful to show now.

The thing is, I got good at WordPress. To the point where I think it wouldn’t be ridiculous to say that I was one of the top hundred most knowledgeable people on WordPress performance at scale. As for Python and Django, I’m currently in the bottom few hundreds.

And yes, it will pass, I will learn and understand the patterns Django uses, start to understand the magic that goes on behind the scenes and know if the random code sample I’m reading on Stack Overflow is correct or should be burned in the fire of the sun.

But right now, it’s painful. Another part of it is I think the fact that the code is publicly viewable by everyone, something that is great in terms of transparency for the Canadian public but it’s tough to show the flaws of my work so publicly. Part of me isn’t sure if it’s my inadequacies or just that they will be public that I’m worried about.

If I’m truly concerned about the quality of the work that will help the healthcare professionals, that’s one thing. But it being because my ego doesn’t want to show how little I know about a certain topic… that’s less great.

Perhaps I’ll just listen to the wisdom of this song which I believe is a ballad about becoming at peace with one’s own limitations and understanding that growth comes at a cost of pain and feeling uncomfortable.

Anyway, that’s my interpretation of the song….

Killing in the name of

This last month I’ve been listening to Killing in the name of regularly.

While I had an understanding from the lyrics that it was an anthem against white supremacy, I didn’t know it’s full history. It’s sad how 28 years after it’s release, it’s still relevant.

For non-Black Canadian folks, here’s a list of ressources that I found useful (with thanks for my coworkers).

Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses
Huh!

Killing in the name of!
Killing in the name of!

And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya

Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites

Some of those that hold office are the same that burn crosses
Some of those that hold office are the same that burn crosses
Some of those up in congress are the same that burn crosses
Some of those up in congress are the same that burn crosses
Uggh!

Killing in the name of!
Killing in the name of

And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
And now you do what they told ya, now you’re under control
(Control!)
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
Come on!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
Motherfucker!

Bookshelves and what they tell others about ourselves

I used to have many physical books and bookshelves along with DVDs prominently displayed in my living room. A colleague mentioned their bookshelves recently and while there is a quote I like:

“We enjoy dreaming up a library that reflects every one of our interests and every one of our foibles—a library that, in its variety and complexity, fully reflects the reader we are.” Such a library is “an assembly of titles that, practically and symbolically, serves [to define us].”

Alberto Manguel (via Lucas Cherkewski)

Interestingly enough, that is in part why I gave away all my books and all my DVDs. While yes there was a practical reason to it, I never really re-read a book and the movies I had a copy on a hard drive. The real reason is that I was using it as a way of defining me to others.

At first blush there doesn’t seem to be anything sub-optimal with that, but I realized that for me, it was a vanity project. I wanted to appear erudite (smart, but like, for wankers), to show off my “depth”, how intellectual I was, how well read, how spiritual, how pragmatic, how emotionally mature etc etc.

And the problem with that, with culturing the image you want to project is that, for me anyway, it takes the focus away from being that deep, emotionally mature, intellectual person to giving that perception.

I don’t need folks to see my library, (I need to resist name dropping “smart” books here that would only serve the exact purpose as what the paragraph above talks about) for them to know who I am. They can figure that out relatively quickly.

I understand the appeal of signalling and it’s benefits. Yes it’s easier to know who you’ll have many things in common with. But does that actually grow my understanding of the world? Will it help me be exposed to new ideas and new opinions if I only interact with folks I think are like-minded.

I know that last paragraph is a bit of a jump, from the image we project with our bookshelves to getting out of our filter bubbles. But I think it’s related in that if we want to better understand the world, we need to let others better understand us, and that means not necessarily using simple signalling to categorize and simplify what is at it’s core an incredibly complex individual.

Edit: I realize this may seem like a hit piece against people who have bookshelves prominently displayed. That’s not my intention, if you have bookshelves that’s great, I just wanted to talk about why I no longer do, doesn’t mean I think you’re vain if you have bookshelves.

… That no one can take for us or spare us

I posted a quote a few days back. But I think I should of expanded on what it means to me. To explain why I find that quote appealing.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
“On ne reçoit pas la sagesse, il faut la découvrir soi-même, après un trajet que personne ne peut faire pour nous, ne peut nous épargner.”

Marcel Proust

There are a few implications, and they all stem from the last few words, “that no one can take for us, or spare us”.

The first is that it means that we need to accept that we cannot learn, we cannot become wiser, without adversity. We can read all the books, but we won’t find wisdom. We’ll find information, we may even find knowledge, but we won’t find wisdom.

That wisdom has a cost. It has an emotional toll. It has some painful introspection. It may lead to some self delusions that were protecting us shattering.

The second implication is that we cannot transfer wisdom. The corollary is then, that I can’t stop something that needs to happen. To do that is to rob that person of the wisdom it will bring. It’s often a bitter pill to swallow since we’d prefer to protect the individual from the inevitable pain that will accompany this, but at times it’s the only option.

Approximate Answers

“I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go on to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t have to… I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.”

Phillip Richard Feynman

Radical Candour

I know many people talk about Radical Candour and I  know I’ve mentioned it a few times and I wanted to just put this article here: https://www.radicalcandor.com/challenging-conversations-radical-candor/

I think one of the reasons I mention radical candour is not to tell others I’m doing it. But to remind myself that I’m trying to get better at it.
In all honesty, I think I’m pretty mediocre at it. I’ll often say things that are sub-optimal and will often shy away from tough conversations.
This article reminded me of the rewards having those conversation has, especially in the long term.

One of the things people seem to miss most when implementing something like radical candour is to first listen and to try to understand the other person. How can you expect someone to listen to you, if you haven’t listened to them?

Being pulled back in the real world

While reading Buddhism Without Belief I couldn’t help but notice how, while reading the book, I was more aware of certain things.

I’m aware of my surrounginds, I’m aware of how I want to act, how I want to change certain patterns. I have compassion for others. I notice the world around me more and appreciate it more.

But, just as it comes, it disappears. I get pulled back into the “real” world. I get pulled back into ruminating on things. On how person X is terrible and playing out conversations in my head where I let them know how shitty they are etc.

It’s interesting because they talk about it in the book. It seems you can only stay into this place of awareness, of appreciating the non-duality of ourselves and others for brief moments at a time before getting pulled back.

Hopefully I’ll be able to extend those moments slowly but steadily.