Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Is Why I Shouldn't Have a Blog

It's a new year, apparently, although as I write this the year has grown old enough that perhaps I should call it "slightly used," or even "Certified Pre-Owned." After all, the "new" year is nearly 1/12 spent already. I meant to get around to making a few resolutions, but then I didn't even succeed in my resolution to make resolutions, which is perhaps just as well, since you can imagine how long they would've lasted, had they ever materialized to begin with. Not that I consider it too late, mind you. I make resolutions all the time, some of which I even stick to. I hardly think there's anything particularly special about New Year's Resolutions, as my neglecting to make them has doubtless already suggested to your keen and calculating intellect. I've been dwelling on cognitive dissonance a bit lately, which is to say, on the apparent rift between what we (people, I mean) claim to believe, and on how we actually act. I try to do this sort of thinking in a removed sort of way, so as not to be too judgmental (so I tell myself), and also (not improbably) because removed, abstract thinking is less likely to induce any kind of self-examination, which is a terribly uncomfortable thing to find oneself doing, probably because even a cursory glance into the immense chasm of one's own intellect can yield the unwelcome revelation that, abysmal as it may be, it's really more of a dark, cramped little nook, like the one people have under their staircases, where they keep the tennis racquets and ski poles and other things that, if they emerge at all, only do so once or twice in a given year, and always accompanied by a disappointed, almost guilty little feeling, and the remembrance that you once told yourself that you were going to become quite the avid tennis player with all of the spare time that you were going to have now, because dammit, this year you're going to watch a lot less telly. As I said, it's best to do this sort of thinking without too many specifics, particularly if those specifics were to be drawn from one's own life and experiences. In any case, the point that I've come to, thinking about cognitive dissonance, I mean, is that people have two competing drives. (Keep in mind that this is just one way to think about this, if you'd like to think about it at all.) The first drive is, simply put, Instinct. It's a way of thinking which happens, if not completely subconsciously, so automatically that if you're not careful you'll find that you've been thinking and acting a certain way in spite of yourself. It's the part of you that eats the entire snack bowl of high-calorie rubbish before the rest of you even realizes what's up, because evolution strongly favors creatures that eat as many calories as possible, as often as possible, because it (historically) leaves those creatures with the energy they need to kill things and reproduce, sometimes simultaneously. The second drive is what I'll call Reason, which is roughly what Freud would call the Super-Ego, or what Jimminy Cricket called himself. It's the part of you that feels bad when all you do is behave instinctively. This is kind of weird, because instinct isn't intrinsically bad, or at least I don't think of it that way. It's gotten us pretty far as a species. So far, in fact, that eating the whole bowl of potato chips is actually a bad decision, because (at least in this part of the world) we're up to our ears in food. (Have I ever mentioned to you how bizarre I find the fact that a huge proportion of the fat and most of the sugar Americans consume comes from corn?) It also makes a lot of sense to me that built into the human organism would be the desire to be better than one is now, to transcend a purely instinctive existence. This does result in what is often called, and what less often (in my opinion) actually is, hypocrisy, but I'm of the mind that anyone who's able to perfectly satisfy their conscience on a daily basis probably has a poorly-formed one at that. Morality is a Platonic form, unattainable in its perfection, and it has to be; how would we get any better if we thought we were already there? Of course, people sometimes think that, too. Hm.

Speaking of nothing about which I was just talking, I just found out that J.D. Salinger died yesterday. The news itself wasn't a huge shock, since he was ninety-one years old. The funny thing is that just last night, before going to bed, I randomly picked up a small volume of his short stories, and read For Esmé-With Love and Squalor, which I thought was pretty good, by the way. Quelle Coincidence, non?

Speaking neither of hall closets, cognitive dissonance, nor of J.D. Salinger for that matter, if you're still out there, reading this thing, please feel free to drop me a comment. It doesn't really have to pertain to the post, if only because the post itself, like many of its predecessors, doesn't really pertain to anything either. It doesn't bother me if you're not there, mind you, I don't keep this blog for reasons closely related to my self-esteem, save that perhaps I think better of myself when I write things down occasionally, though it doesn't seem to matter a whit to me what I write, as the evidence (no doubt) bears out.