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Day 8: Sarcasm, and the better way

In Life in General, Self Improvement on 2014/11/15 at 18:26

Buckle down, this one will be long.

Growing up as an only child, and without the influences of a wholesome family, I grew up thinking that all families were as dysfunctional as was portrayed on TV. It’s what sells, right? (I remember seeing a t-shirt celebrating it with the words “putting the ‘fun’ back in dysfunctional”). Bickering, backstabbing, and sarcasm were among the most frequent tools used to perpetuate chaos in family relationships. And so our entertainment media succeeded, intentionally or not, to instill in me a belief that families were all defective as a matter of course. Growing up by myself, and then moving to a different country as a child, helped to isolate me from experiences that contradicted that faulty belief.

The first challenge to my misconception happened in the dining room of a family that my teenage brain decided to visit. I had known them for many years but never had reason to go see them, and still didn’t, but I went anyway, and they were happy that I was there to play with their son (he had three sisters but no brothers). I can’t tell you how old I was, or what we did that day, but three things I witnessed were so shocking that I still have vivid memories of how I felt. The first was the father issuing strict orders to his rowdy children to settle down, which I had fully expected to be ignored with disdain. Instead, they complied happily. I was speechless, and stood there trying to understand what had happened. Such a minor thing in hindsight, but to me it was world-changing: it was the first sign that families do not, as a matter of course, do everything in their power to frustrate and diminish each other.

Day 7: Self-Interest and Altruism

In Uncategorized on 2014/11/11 at 01:06

Suppose someone says that they like to do good things, even good things for others, because it makes them feel good. There are people who would try to twist that into self-interest and destroy the very concept of altruism. They would say that it is actually selfish to draw enjoyment from giving others pleasure, and that true altruism is to give without any benefit, including enjoyment.

This argument seems right superficially, so it took me many years to discover that it’s totally wrong. The key was in the challenge to turn the argument upside down: that self-interested altruism is the best way to be. Here’s the support for this simple counter-argument. What do you call someone who does not empathise with the sufferings of others? I believe this is one of the tell-tale symptoms of sociopathy. And what about someone who feels nothing for the happiness of others? Also a sociopath. It seems that a person who cannot feel through the experiences of others is socially, mentally, or emotionally abnormal, if not something worse. To expect someone to do “good deeds” without sharing in the joy is quite deranged.

So there you have it. Helping others and feeling joy in the act is not only OK, it’s the best possible state of interaction with humanity.

Day 6: Writing daily (or not)

In Uncategorized on 2014/11/09 at 01:08

So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of topics that I’ve managed to write something about. I tend toward long, epic pieces that are full of content on a single topic (maybe I should have gone with a novel after all). For example, all my posts and emails from my travels tended toward the 2000 word mark and always focused on events and aspects of culture. Since I simply don’t have the time to invest in so much original content every day, I’ve been forced to come up with small bits of content that I can write quickly. It’s been a fun challenge and, I feel, beneficial for me.

But by now we can safely admit that even with my NaBloWriMo’s reduced requirements, writing every day is too often. This is fine. I took the challenge as far as I could. In marathons, budgets, agile software development, and new adventures you must constantly monitor and make adjustments as necessary, so I’ll readjust NaBloWriMo to be one #myartseries OR one post per day of November, maybe alternately.

I have a lineup of topics that I’ll write about in the coming days: Encouragement, Sarcasm (and the better way), Attitudes Toward Money, and Rediscovery. Hope you’re excited to read them! And also patient and OK with the possibility of me never actually writing them! Oh, the agony of uncertainty!

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