Broken Toaster

You are not
A window pane
You are not
A broken toaster.
You are a human being
With imperfections,
Cracks and dents and
Fissures,
That make you
Perfect and whole.
You don’t need
Fixing.

[My inner Bukowski wrote this attempt at a poem at 3am a few nights ago.]

“Respect your elders.” Why, exactly?

This can be considered an addendum or aside or a long postscript to my last post in which I talked (OK, ranted) about getting into trouble with authority figures. Much of that authority, I have seen, comes from people ‘pulling age’ on others: “I’m older than you, and I know better and am wiser and have more experience, etc., and so therefore I can and must tell you how you should shit.” This is not a logically rigorous argument.

I interviewed the other day in what was probably the most subjective interview I’ve ever had in my life. In about fifteen minutes of vague questions to which equally vague answers were provided, because vague questions cannot demand specific answers, the interviewer had determined with near-absolute certainty and conviction that my job of three years as a strategist for a digital media organization wasn’t as much about strategy as it was about servicing, and offered to check in that department, the servicing department, if they had openings and would I be interested in that role?

No.

So no objective test or other unambiguous methodology was used in the conclusion proffered. What got my goat, and is the subject of this post, is the fact that she went on to validate or rationalize her entirely–faulty–subjective impression by referring to her many years of experience in the field and what she is looking for and how I do not fit that particular bill. The offer of an alternate position I wouldn’t take was a poorly offered palliative. Basically what I’m trying to say is, a person’s competence can not be judged subjectively, and the current process of interviewing by the so-called quote-unquote informed opinions of one person means a lot of talent gets passed on for mediocre, but possibly more personable characters, which, great first impressions and suchlike, holds sway in interviews, as has been demonstrated by psychologists often enough to now consider like epistemological fact.

The other issue is the, also, psychological cognitive biases we are entrapped by. But they seem to get worse as we grow older, than better. Age seems to give people the warrant to be firmer and ofttimes absolute about their opinions, antonymic facts be damned. Scientists tell us that we–our minds–actively look for information that support our biases and scorn that which don’t. Which means we must be extra careful of our conclusions about everything: about the political parties we support,–I prefer to hold off judgment until positive outcomes are effected (and each outcome judged on its own merit, not a blanket “support everything this party says” ideology)–the kind of people we choose to associate–or not–with, even how we make choices about our future should be subjected to careful thinking, lest we fall into the trap of reverting to our intuition or “gut” to decide on what’s right or wrong, what’s best and what’s not. Worse, still, is foisting these views on younger people sometimes incapable of deciding what’s right, who defer to the older person’s viewpoint out of ‘respect’ for their age, or are just scared to be kicked out of their home or otherwise harshly reprimanded for ‘going against.’

Respect is also a two-way street. The opinions of someone younger are as important as those of one older. A person less knowledgeable is inviting you to lessen his ignorance, giving you the enormous responsibility of giving them the right guidance. To expect respect without giving any back is a rubbish and arrogant worldview.

Older people should consider the responsibility placed upon them: of being honest to themselves, in order to be honest to younger folks who depend on their guidance; of acknowledging the limits of their minds, so that they can better instruct their wards in the right ways of critical thinking; to be certain only within epistemic bounds, and to revise opinions when better information is available; these are traits that should be striven for and consequently handed over to the young ones. That is your heritage, is what you should leave behind. The alternative is, in today’s age of near-instant information access, your ill-informed opinions will be seen for what they are, and you will lose respect in the eyes of anyone but the most ignorant.

Troubles With Authority Figures

I was having a random conversation with a friend and we spoke about general childhood stuff and having to deal with elders treating us like kids (because we were kids, but what kid wants to acknowledge that?), which ended up with me thinking back to all the authority figures in my life and realizing that, with few exceptions, I’ve been beaten by mostly everyone, for indiscipline, talking back to elders, or whatever else elders beat kids for. I listed out my parents, grandparents, uncles, teachers, principals, fathers and brothers (the blessed sort), boarding supervisors; pretty much anyone entrusted with my charge acknowledged that I was a snotty, disobedient, a too-smart-for-my-own-good brat, and therefore any degree of punishment wasn’t too much or too far. Still, I hold no grudges against them; I’d knock me about if I were charged with a snot like me.

These are the downsides of precociousness. Intellectual superiority (I used to believe that) to these people made me a) question their authority, and b) their consequent verbal and slash or physical assertion of that authority without any explanation or grounds or validity for being an authority figure vested with the sweeping, constitutionally (I think) illegal powers of child verbal/physical abuse. Like, let’s face it, I clearly know more than you, better than you, and I’m only expressing that fact. Your advanced age or your nominal figurehead status means nothing to me, except an annoyance maybe at your lack of comprehension of your own stupidity and pigheadedness for not acknowledging the power of my brain, one that’d figuratively run rings around your own before you’d even get off the ground (excuse the mixing of metaphors).

So, kids, take heart if you think you’re smarter than your elders; you most probably are. Age doesn’t bring wisdom or experience; that’s a myth propagated by elders to subjugate you, whack you with a fine-tuned bamboo. I say that because I’m now an “elder” and I and everyone I know has no idea what the hell we’re doing. Yes, we’re very much bullshitting as we go along.

A 100-word Story: Monster

Her eyes focused on her bloodied hands. She looked down with horror in her eyes at the knife on the floor beside them. She took a few hesitant steps towards her son, who stumbled away. Her mouth whispered “Son…” before being cut off abruptly by a thudding sound. Johnny looked down at the folded figure of his mother and her sightless eyes and wondered if he’d finally finished her this time. The monster would never hurt them again, he thought, as he crept into bed and went to sleep beside his sister, whose mouth was open in a soundless scream.

Butterfly

She crawled back into her cocoon,

wanting to forget her wish to be a butterfly,

to join her kind, flitting about without care, or pretense,

but the pain of escape had borne heavy on her young wings,

she withered, her wings shriveled for lack of flight,

the cocoon, in which she found comfort,

became her near-deadly embrace.

Her countenance melancholy, she watched

as her brothers and sisters streaked about her,

flashes in the sunlight,

their wings burdened with the same pain,

but bringing joy to others who watched,

not fixated on their own short lives,

only focused on giving

of themselves.

 

For they had realized what their depressed sister hadn’t;

life is lived in this infinitesimal moment,

every pain and every pleasure,

met with equanimity,

knowing right now is gone,

replaced by another now,

never-ending, the process.

The universe brings them into

and takes them out of existence,

always replaced, never erased,

sometimes understanding

the law of the universe: nothing destroyed,

everything crashing into everything,

and everything only as it should be.

 

They live short lives, compared to us,

and we live short lives compared to the universe;

yet we imagine our sorrows to be greater,

imagine our long existence doomed to pain and suffering,

not realizing our existence is

as unnecessary as a candle

gazing at the sun.

The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells – A Thesis

         invisible

This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

          The Invisible Man is a lesson in how a person behaves when his insecurities and subsequent obsessions lead to the possession of a means, at any and all costs, of near-limitless power, and the pitfalls of such.

The Protagonist is Griffin, whose Albinism has made him conscious and insecure of his appearance to the greatest degree. Making a shift from Chemistry to Physics, he focuses particularly on the behavior of light. This behavior may subconsciously stem from his insecurities. He drives himself to understand how light travels through particles, and will go to any lengths to achieve his goal of making things completely invisible. He may subconsciously be wishing for a way to rid himself of his Albinism.

He robs his own father, who kills himself soon after. Griffin feels no remorse at this. He has no compulsions on experimenting on a Cat and putting it through suffering and disposing of it when done. He is impulsive and not prone to think through the circumstances his actions may beget, which is shown when he proceeds to turn himself invisible and realizes it’s not the glorious and powerful event he had imagined, but comes with its own unique set of troubles.

We see Griffin lock up a man in the man’s own house, rob and leave him without concern for his welfare. Furthermore, at Iping, he robs the Vicar, is irascible and prone to outbursts of violence towards his hosts. He comes across Kemp and decides to make him privy to his secrets and ideas of a “reign of Terror.” By now Griffin has lost all grip on realityHe cares not for right or wrong, but sees himself as an Overlord with Super Powers.

          The conclusion of Griffin being murdered by a mob shows us what happens to a person, whose insecurity-led madness goes too far. His scientific discovery destroys him instead of being a boon.

You can view the previously published theses here.

 

Dracula, by Bram Stoker – A Thesis

Bram-Stoker-Dracula-Novel-Cover

This thesis was written as part of a MOOC I took. More info here.

  Bram Stoker was Irish and was brought up as a Protestant in the Church of Ireland. Dracula is a powerful lesson that promotes Catholic teachings and tries to inculcate faith in the power of the Holy Bread and other Holy paraphernalia.

The Holy Wafer, referenced heavily in the book, is part of the religious ceremony of Mass in Church. Stoker’s referencing it as being among the sacred objects that shun Dracula points to his possible intent to direct people to go to Mass and partake of the Holy Bread. Other symbols such as Holy Water and the Crucifix are also representative of the Church and its power.

Central European folk beliefs considered Garlic a powerful ward against Vampires and could be why Stoker adopted Garlic as a major symbol.

Dracula is the embodiment of immortality in life, whereas Christian belief tells us that what is truly immortal is our soul and that the body is an inconsequential vessel; we must shun immortality in life so as to hope for immortality in the afterlife.

What Dracula gives to others is eternal life on Earth. As far as can be perceived in the book, there are no instances of anyone having died with a Vampire’s bite. What, then, is so bad about eternal life on Earth that the protagonists seem to despise and wish to be rid of? Could it be Christianity’s influence of the eternal soul being better than the eternal body that could be behind their purposeful actions?

Throughout the book the characters ask for God’s forgiveness or wish for deliverance from Evil. Harker’s journal – “There is something of a guiding purpose manifest throughout…. Mina says that perhaps we are the instruments of ultimate good.” A direct reference to “God’s will be done”.

All in all, Stoker’s religious background seems to have been expressed powerfully in Dracula, whether deliberate or not.

You can view the previously published theses here.