Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seas would rise when I gave the word

I was watching the first DVD from Biology: The Science of Life this morning, struggling to pay attention enough to understand and remember what was going on, when I happened upon what I think is a key insight into why people think liberals in general, and I in particular, are arrogant jerks. I am on a quest- to put it a wee bit melodramatically- to continually improve myself, because I'm not satisfied with my current state. I put effort into educating myself because I think that I am uneducated. From my point of view, this mostly manifests as continual disappointment when I fail to reach my own high standards, but I think from the outside the most noticeable thing is the high standards, and my apparent belief that I can reach them, which seems hubristic.

Of course, it doesn't help when every so often my effort to learn things pays off, and I end up busting out in the middle of a conversation with random facts that no one else knows. For example, I went to a book group on Tuesday at the local library that discussed Straight Man, by Richard Russo, which I had not read. But apparently the book repeatedly brings up Occam's Razor. There was a nice, friendly, nonthreatening conversation about what, exactly, Occam's Razor was- no one really knew for sure but they were tossing around the phrase "simplest solutions are always right"- and I piped up with "actually, it doesn't mean that simplest solutions are always right, just that out of a given set of solutions to a problem, the simplest solution is more likely to be correct-simpler explanations should be preferred." Which, of course, stopped the conversation completely even though I tried to soften it with some trash about how its a computer programming maxim and so of course a lot of people don't know it.

I tend not to associate my knowledge of correct facts with being correct myself; it is the fact, something independent of me, which is correct, and my knowledge of it is more or less an accident. Other people don't see things that way, though, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I don't really see what I can do about this state of things, other than keep my mouth shut I suppose. The chances of me becoming a different kind of person are very low. My next self-improvement project will focus on writing, I think. I have the impression that my writing from the period after I got hurt is much worse than the writing from before I got hurt. I used to write poetry and shit, and although it was pretty emo, it was also pretty good on a technical level. Since I feel like I could do better than I do currently, I am getting a book of writing prompts (thank God-or rather, thank our government which has not yet been taken over by libertarians- for libraries) and I intend to write mini-essays from writing prompts every day for a month.

Or until I get bored, whichever comes first.

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