Category Archives: Life

The Gentleman and the Jester

James HamblinJames Hamblin of The Atlantic is one of my favorite columnists. He’s a 35-year-old medical doctor who looks like a teenager and has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. For example, he wrote a piece this summer called The Eclipse Conspiracy:

On August 21, the “moon” will pass between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the light of the latter. The government agency NASA says this will result in “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.” The astronomers there claim to have calculated down to the minute exactly when and where this will happen, and for how long. They have reportedly known about this eclipse for years, just by virtue of some sort of complex math.

…Meanwhile the scientists tell us we can’t look at it without special glasses because “looking directly at the sun is unsafe.”

That is, of course, unless we wear glasses that are on a list issued by these very same scientists. Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon are profiting from the sale of these eclipse glasses. Is anyone asking how many of these astronomers also, conveniently, belong to Amazon Prime?

Let’s follow the money a little further. Hotels along the “path of totality” — a region drawn up by Obama-era NASA scientists — have been sold out for months. Some of those hotels are owned and operated by large multinational corporations. Where else do these hotels have locations? You guessed it: Washington, D.C.

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The Virtue of Hopelessness

Here’s one more post (for now) on the philosophy of actor Jim Carrey. He said,

There’s a virtue in hopelessness. I’m not kidding. You’re off the hook and you don’t have to worry about what’s coming. “Okay, the world freaking ended. That’s great. Now what?” Give up! Surrender to the idea that things are bad and yet still, from 3,000 feet up, we don’t matter. Things are happening and we’re going to happen along with them whether we like it or not. But we don’t matter. …Once you lose yourself, you’re pretty okay. Just get out of the way.

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People Will Surprise You

CuneiformIn case the last 59 years had not taught me this already, I learned it again this morning: the moment you think you have someone pegged, they will surprise you.

Today’s lesson came as I overheard a conversation in Starbucks between two gentlemen who could only be described as bros. One looked to be in his early 20s and was wearing a sweatshirt from his high school. The other was probably in his mid-thirties but looked older. To give you the flavor of the conversation, here are some things that were said.

On Marriage

Older bro: I don’t ever want to get married.

Younger bro: I know; getting married scares me to death. The only way I’d ever marry someone is if I loved her so much that I wouldn’t care if she took everything [in a divorce].

Older bro: Women are much better than we are, dude. Men do everything half-assed. Women work hard.

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Transformative Experience

Transformative ExperienceOnly eight posts ago, I lamented that the more important our decisions are, the less thought we seem to put into them. We only invest enough thought to find what makes us feel good, I said, and I wished we would apply more rational thought to our big choices.

Maybe I was asking too much.

Philosopher L.A. Paul says that when it comes to truly life-changing decisions — ones that transform the way you think or your mode of being — there’s no way we can be entirely rational, because on the other side of those decisions we will be so profoundly changed that our present selves can have no idea what our future selves will think.

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What Defines You: What You Think or What You Do?

In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) is acting the part of an outrageous playboy in order to maintain his cover. At the tail end of one escapade, who should appear but Rachel Dawes, a friend from years ago whose admiration he craves. He tries to explain that what she has just witnessed does not represent the real Bruce Wayne.

Rachel devastatingly replies, “Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it’s not who you are underneath; it’s what you do that defines you.”

Is that true?

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Unusual Superpowers

I recently read an article in The Guardian about people who have a superpower I had never heard of. They are “empaths” — people who are “capable of feeling someone else’s feeling in their own body.”

Here is a sample experience from the article:

[An empath named Noah Berman and his friend] were sharing a joint when [the friend’s] sister came in looking distressed; Berman told his friend that her sister had been sexually assaulted by a person they both knew, and that she would disclose this in three weeks’ time. His premonition was correct.

Sometimes being an empath is a burden, as when one young empath was “bullied by his classmates, who were freaked out when he intuited information about them.”

This got me thinking about unconventional superpowers. If you could be granted one superpower other than the ones you’ve seen in movies (so no flying, combat skills, invisibility, or shape-shifting), what would it be? Here are some choices to get you started.

The ability to sing or play music that would evoke any desired emotion in those who hear it. The sirens of Greek myth had this ability, but only for the purpose of luring sailors to shipwreck on their island. Imagine if they had used their power to produce love, humility, patience, magnanimity, or other virtues!

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What People Are Really Searching For

Isn’t it obvious that the more consequential an opinion is, the more careful we should be about forming it? Yet one of the mysteries of human behavior is that we often do the opposite.

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