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.


Mike Bogdan said...


Interesting post. I don't think it's healthy to avoid looking in that closet. I think alot of people spend their lives trying to avoid taking a peak, and fill their time with the telly, with games, and whatever distractions we can come up with.

I'm very good at it in fact. But i find the more time i spend looking, and asking the BIG MAN to shine a little light in there, the better life tends to roll along. Again, mind you, i'm not very good at doing this, but there is a very clear correlation between happiness and taking the time to look.

Those are my thoughts at the moment.

Mike Bogdan said...

Call me sometime buddy.

Lisa said...

OK. I'll admit that what I'm going to say has nothing to do with the content of your post per se, but it was freaky... The strongest deja vu moment I've ever had. I swear I read the first four or five sentences of your post a few weeks ago. I even checked the date of your post and looked at earlier posts to make sure you weren't repeating yourself for a joke. It was like "The Matrix". Oh! Oh! Got to go, Mr. Cous. Mr. Anderson! They're coming... got to find an exit... (Instinct to survive kicks in.) January in Michigan is way too long.

John Lynch said...

I'm not sure if you've characterized cognitive dissonance correctly. At its core, cognitive dissonance is a feeling created simply by holding two mutually exclusive propositions to be true. Certainly, this could be related to how one behaves relative to one's professed beliefs, but I tend to find that people often profess contradictory beliefs without even needing to act on either of them. And this is before we even get into questions of revealed preference. =P

Mike Bogdan said...

Nice John! :)

Speaking of cognative dissonance... UC vs FEC and the dems? Don't you think they're going to benefit just as much?

Seriosly tangential, i know, but i've really been wanting to talk about it.

L. H. Lynch said...

In the contrary, Donal, I am pretty sure this is exactly why you SHOULD have a blog.

Also, "For Esme With Love and Squalor" is one of my favorite short stories, by anyone, not just Salinger. It made me cry, which I wish said something, but as I cry easily when I read, it really doesn't say nearly enough.

Alexis said...

I'm here Donal! Miss you and say hi to Lindsey for me ;).

D.Cous. said...

Whew. I didn't think I'd get so many comments.

Mike, the writing in the post wasn't meant to be instructional, or even (strictly speaking) true. I do think that self-examination (preferably accompanied by prayer) is a very good thing. However, the part of me that likes to write disagrees.

Regarding the CU vs. FEC decision, I'm somewhat surprised, though I don't really think it'll have as huge implications as is feared and hoped for. Certainly, I believe the common characterization of Republicans as being in bed with industry, while Democrats are not, is ridiculous.

John, I knew you'd jump on my use of that term.

Lisa, it would not surprise me at all to find that I'd re-used some of my own writing, nor for that matter, someone else's. I wish my thinking were more original than that, but I don't wish to fool myself either.

clem said...

Linds got your blog to be an RSS for me, so I can actually read it more frequently. Perhaps I should say, "Absorb" it, as just reading it probably doesn't do it justice.

clem said...

Now that Linds has converted your blog to an RSS for me, I will actually read (or absorb) it more often. Keep thinking. Someone has to.

DaWheeze said...

I read and enjoy your blog - you put a different perspective on things in a hilarious and oddly poetic style.

Lindsey said...

I read your blog too :)

Mmmm… high calorie rubbish… I think that's what I ate for lunch.

Hi Mike! Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.

Hi Alexis! Saw some cute pics of the kids from Reenie's last trip.

Ooops, is it not five yet?