Last time I wrote about willful ignorance as one good definition of stupidity. This time, I want to explore some ideas about why there seems a growing amount of it in modern society. Of course that necessitates first addressing the question: Is there a growing amount of it? I believe the answer is yes, but I also believe a lot of the reason for it is the growing complexity of society.
There was a time when a clever person could fix their washing machine or their car. Our machines were fairly simple then: a motor, a few hoses, some wires and belts. It wasn’t hard to figure out. A clever person with experience and tools could even fix their radio or TV. Replacing a burned out “tube” was a common household activity.
Now our machines bear the warning: “No User Serviceable Parts Inside”
The title above is deliberately a little inflammatory, but people who know me, and people who read this blog, may — not without reason — think this is a common sentiment of mine. And it sort of is, but it’s actually a code for something much more intricate and involved. Last time I wrote about Leon Wieseltier, whose ten-word critique of modern society blew me away, especially his central clause: “Not enough critical thinking.”
This time I’d like to explore — or at least begin exploring — exactly what (to me) the phrase, “People are stupid!” really means. There are some key distinctions to be made. For example, I don’t think people are more, or less, stupid than they’ve ever been; our brains haven’t changed in many thousands of years.
And let’s face it, we all take a Stupid Pill now and then.
Sometimes you encounter someone who seems to really hit the nail on the head in terms of how they see the world. The brilliance of these moments is that — especially if you tend to be a social outlier — you’re given the gift of knowing you’re not alone. There are people who not only see the world as you do, but see it even more clearly and intelligently than you ever could.
Leon Wieseltier appeared on The Colbert Report last Tuesday (Oct 7), and I was so blown away by his words that I kept rewinding and rewinding so I could write it all down and record here what he said.
I was especially impressed by his ten-word critique of modern society!
Last time I gave you the final chapter in the Story of Samantha — the repose of her ashes. Two years ago, I gave you an early chapter, the Tale of the Perfect Day (in part, a tale of a tail). This time, somewhat like a (long-delayed) wake, I’m going to share some random memories from The Life of Sam.
Actually, she was Samantha II. The first Samantha was a puppy I shared with a roommate. That Sam died very young when she lost in an attempt to take down a passing bus. My roommate, who’d left the gate open, was utterly devastated. We buried her beneath a stand of Joshua trees far out in the Mojave Desert.
The puppy, that is; not my roommate.
The autumn leaves that litter the trail crunch beneath my feet, and dozens of flying insects — grasshoppers I think — flee the oncoming giant tromping through their domain. The late morning sky is a lovely cerulean broken only by lonely scattered cloud wisps. The October air is crisp — like a chilled white wine — dry, bracing, invigorating. I am given a perfect fall day to accomplish my task.
The trees that surround me, mostly oak and linden, a few scattered elms, give way to pines. Now the trail is covered in long pine needles and pine cones. Large birds — falcons perhaps — watch my passing with avian alarm. A brave one flies directly overhead to get a closer look at the encroaching human.
I’m seeking the “Cathedral of Pines,” the place I’ve chosen for Sam’s final rest.
I’ve been trying to re-synch my clock to a more normal daylight cycle. All my life I’ve been a “night crawler.” My very first official job involved a retail position, but we worked outdoors. I noticed how, no matter how tired I was, once the sun fell, I got a fresh breath of wind. And even at my advanced age, staying up all night is easy (and so is napping all afternoon).
My (ex-)wife used to say I must have vampire blood in me. It’s true I do like to bite necks, but so far I have drawn only moans, no blood. It may be more that I’ve always identified with the idea, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Life is filled with so many interesting things, who wants to waste time sleeping? And for all my life, five hours seems to do me just fine.
But the point here is that I’ve been trying to become more of a day person.
I’m Wyrd Smythe, and I really approve of this ad!
Wow! Kansas City Royals — the wildcard team — take the Los Angeles Angels (the best team in baseball this year) three-zip in the ALDS. And that after an amazing wildcard game against the Oakland Athletics. The game last night — their fourth post-season game — was the first to go only nine innings and featured their biggest win so far: 8-3!
It’s hard to separate my rooting for them to win from how objectively great all four games have been, but I think anyone would agree these were great games. The Royals have been so much fun to watch. Their running game alone is a joy to behold.
Blue beat green in one and red in three; now they go after orange best of seven!
A while ago, a popular mass-produced beer had some commercials that revolved around the line, “Why ask why?” While most beer commercials seem on the stupid side to me anyway (one brand’s only selling point seems to be “coldness”), those especially bugged me. Actually, as I recall, the commercials were pretty cute; it was the idea that asking Why? is pointless that bugged me.
I believe that asking Why? is a uniquely human trait. Animals accept existence; humans question it. And while there is a certain important Zen-like quality to accepting existence, I believe the questions are also important.
Science is really nothing more than the process of asking Why?
World Series bound?
Yesterday featured, not one, not two, not three, but four MLB baseball games to watch. Normally there is nothing unusual about four baseball games in a day. During the regular season, when all 30 MLB teams play (which happens most days), there are 15 games on the day. The big difference yesterday was that these were post-season playoff games, and all four were televised in national markets at times that almost didn’t overlap.
And how about them Royals?! First they give the Tigers fits during the season after fighting their way above the pack — even taking first place in the Division for 30 days late in the season. Then they make it to the playoffs as a wildcard and have played amazing baseball in the three games so far. Quite a story; I hope they go all the way!
Plus, I’ve realized what really annoys me about NCIS: Los Angeles.