Is democracy viable?

Note: I updated this on Thursday, November 10, 2016, to clarify what I mean by “gets the most votes.”

On November 8, 2016, roughly three months from now, the United States will elect a new president. It may be Hillary Clinton, it may be Donald Trump, and it could even be, theoretically, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or even a come-from-nowhere dark horse who starts a new party at the last moment and takes us all by surprise. But whoever it is, it will be someone. It won’t be nobody.

That president will have been elected by a majority vote of the citizenry, which means that the voters who don’t get their wish must accept the result. Even if just one vote decides the outcome, the democratic ideal says that the candidate who gets the most votes wins.

(By the way, I am aware of the distinction between the popular vote and the electoral college. My point is about our implementation of how the will of the people becomes representation in government. So when I say, “gets the most votes,” I mean wins the most states’ electoral votes, since that is how our country’s constitution implements the will of the people. Maybe some day I will write a critique on whether this is good or bad, but this is not that.)

Will the American people accept this? I wonder. Increasingly, I hear talk of an unacceptable possibility this time around; that if this or that candidate wins—well, it’s not always clear what happens next, just that it would not be acceptable.

But what is an unacceptable election outcome in a democracy? Short of voter fraud, what happens to the democratic gospel if the “wrong person” gets elected? Are we OK with the majority vote, or aren’t we? Is democracy—the kind where the voters vote and after they’re done, that’s what you get, period—really viable?

I’m just wondering.

Farewell, Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart left Comedy Central’s Daily Show on August 6, 2015. That was his final episode.

That day, Facebook lit up with posts of praise and mourning. Some of the posts quoted him or included clips from one or more episodes. Here is just one example:

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart’s departure from the Daily Show caused a great deal of reflection on his legacy. In just the few days after August 6, I saw a steady stream of it. The following Sunday featured the tongue-in-cheek rumor that he quit so he could run for president—a fantasy that had some dreaming.

Indeed, what a legacy he left. On August 6 in Business Insider, Maxwell Tani cataloged 5 times Jon Stewart actually changed the world. It is quite a list, and yet it swings for the “big ones” only; it leaves out all the times when Stewart’s words made someone change, which is, no doubt, more times than any one of us knows or could count. How many times did someone decide to go this way and not that way because of something Jon Stewart said? It has to be millions.

Jon Stewart changed me, too.

At 51, I have learned that I will never understand most of the other people on this planet. I never have and never will. I have met many thousands of people face to face, and many more via social media and customer service calls; gotten to know some well and some very well. I have heard stories (a.k.a. rumors) about many, many others. I am related to some of them. Some of them I feel a real affinity for, but a lot of them mystify me. They say things that make no sense to me; or they do things that seem, to me, to be nuts; or they raise their kids in ways that seem too far right or too far left or too far just off.

I have had the same experience concerning many people groups as well. I say “people groups” in a very generic sense, as in any way in which someone names people who share something in common, such as Texans, women, men, Europeans, trans-genders, Millenials, liberals, conservatives, and so on. I have read and heard about thousands of such groups, and many of them mystify me, too. They say and do things that I do not understand.

Jon Stewart specialized in addressing the people and groups he did not understand—not always, of course; he did host guests, such as Malala Yousafzai, with whom he had an affinity. But whenever he targeted someone outside his field of dreams, that is when he would shine. He would make fun of them like a top-five schoolyard bully. He would insinuate. He would use his barbed verbal skills and Gromit-like facial expressions to make them look crazy, stupid, idiotic, insane, evil, misguided, barbaric, coarse, immature, out of touch, corrupt, lazy, greedy, or whatever undesirable quality suited the occasion. He would draw from both holsters and pull both triggers. He would mock them without mercy. His goal was to make you laugh at people, and he was very good at it.

That is how he changed me. The more I laughed, the more superior to others I felt. The more episodes I watched, the less willing I was to try to see things from someone else’s point of view—to try to understand them. The more “Sinner” labels I put on people, the more self-righteous I became. And the distance between me and them became great; so great that the very idea of talking to them became impossible. I did not want to try to understand them; I reviled them.

And then one day I realized how ugly a person I had become. I was a predator on the lookout for new victims. My world was smaller than it had ever been. There was Us, and there was Them, and They Were Morons.

It is not possible to form a cohesive brotherhood of anything with that kind of mentality. It is not possible to “coexist” or to “Give peace a chance” or to “Cease fire.” When you are laughing at others, their lives don’t matter. You are against them; you hate them; you are their enemy; you don’t want to touch them and you wish them harm.

Jon Stewart—or rather, my consumption of his material—made me realize that if I am ever going to live at peace with the other people of this planet—most of whom I do not understand—laughing at them is not going to get it done. In fact, it is going to make things worse.

So when Jon Stewart announced that he was going to quit the Daily Show, I was glad. I did not like the person he had exemplified and the person I had become—a person who widens the divide between me and others, rather than one who builds bridges to them. You cannot build bridges to people you are laughing at. You will gladly kick the chair out from under them, but you will not hold it for them. You will vote to go to war against them; you will circulate petitions to silence them; you will, yes, grow to hate them. You will not try to live at peace with them, not at any cost.

Maybe all the people Jon Stewart took to task truly are stupid, crazy morons. I’m sure some are. Even if they are, they are still people—other human beings with a different point of view with whom we need to live. And if they have any self-respect, they are surely not going to sit down at the table and talk about it with people who are laughing at them.

Maxwell Tani is right. Jon Stewart did change the world. He took something deplorable—mockery—and made people like it. I really wish that had not happened. Do you want to go through life looking for people to laugh at? I don’t, not anymore.

Many people are clearly going to miss Jon Stewart. I will not be one of them.

Marriage

Today, Friday, June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. It was a 5-4 decision. This turn of events has made a lot of people very happy, and a lot of others very sad. The decision has struck a lot of emotional chords.

But to me, nothing resonates more deeply than the emphatic assertion that marriage is a valid institution.

When I was in high school, I took a course on feminism. Most of my female friends in that class assured me that marriage was part of the problem. To them, marriage was an oppressive artifact of a chauvinistic society, a chief contributor to inequity between the sexes and in need of radical reform, if not retirement. This was in 1979.

By the time Ruthie and I were getting married seven years later, marriage had become fairly unpopular in the wider culture. In 1986, a lot of people regarded marriage as mildly passé, quaint, even anachronistic. Talk of “the 50 percent divorce rate” became common, as did the feeling that such statistics weakened the case for getting married.

By the early 2000’s, I had coworkers bluntly asking me the question, “Why bother?” Aside from philosophical opposition, they had more pragmatic concerns: “What is the point of getting married when we can just live together?” Among my single friends, interest in marriage, if any, came chiefly from only one benefit: Taxes. But many predicted they would probably end up divorced anyway, so they were hardly marriage enthusiasts. Divorce, if it came, would force them to divide their assets and make them poorer, thus wiping out any tax benefits. Whatever positivity they clung to in their outlook could only be called sanguine. And one even suggested to me that I must be in a midlife crisis, because who gets to midlife married without being in a midlife crisis?

In the end, my professional peers, in general, were with my high school peers in believing that marriage was a virtually useless institution. It could safely be discarded as a throwback to a more primitive time, a time when oppression of women was the real driver anyway. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, went so far as to suggest that if we’re going to keep it around, marriage should have an expiration date, perhaps being only good for seven years.

Over the last 10 years, marriage became so universally reviled that it was rare to hear it cast as anything but a masochistic choice. Expect great suffering and a decline in your quality of life became the standard model for marriage, as Mike Birbiglia so frequently reminded us.

Then this morning happened.

It looks like marriage is back.

Told you so

I called the first draft of this post, “Where are Grog’s blog posts?” To which I answered, “Good question. Keep reading for the embarrassing answer.” Now that rescue operations have recovered all of the missing, I have re-titled it to fit the lesson learned, by me, passively speaking.

My tale of woe is pretty simple. I woke up this morning to do some blog maintenance that Yahoo said I had to perform—it said I had to remove the insecure plugins wp-cache and wp-db-backup. So I complied. As soon as I did so, all of my posts went away. More importantly, I had failed to back up my site, because I assumed, so foolishly, that everything would be OK.

I recently told my son Jacob, “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have lost data, and those who are about to.” I like to lead by example.

Fortunately, I managed to salvage the essential bits from the WordPress cache, which I was able to restore from the Yahoo snapshot of just a few hours ago. I was able to restore my posts from those archives.

I have been duly spanked.

An open letter to the United States NSA

Dear Big Sisters and Brothers,

Thanks to Edward Snowden, your awesome phone records surveillance program is now widely known to pretty much all of us. We also know about the PRISM email and internet monitoring Hal thing you’ve got going, plus the Boundless Informant iPad app. It’s all so 21st-century it makes us pee in our pants with pride at how forward-thinking and modern this makes the United States look.

But to be honest, I think you’re still just playing around. I mean, think about it—why stop at phone records and internet crap? Why aren’t you going after more? And there is somuch more.

You certainly could get away with it. The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA deputy director Cedric Leighton, all the leaders in Congress, the federal courts, our beloved President Barack “Transparen-See” Obama and his ENTIRE staff—heck, pretty much everybody in power at this moment—have all come out and said firmly how justifiable this is. (Except for one or two Republican psychos.) And the best part is,they are all in agreement! (How often does that happen?). They all agree that capturing metadata is a common-sense trade-off of “privacy” (slang for “18th-century bill of rights shit”) for security.

Let’s not mince words: Capturing metadata is the wave of our secure future.

Here’s my proposal: You’ve been collecting metadata on every phone call of every American in the United States for the last seven years, and you’ve been collecting metadata on emails and internet stuff like that, you’ve got the tools to slice and dice and analyze the crap out of all that “big data,” and it’s all legit. Right?

So, let’s get this party started. You can apply the “metadata” template to all sorts of other stuff people do, and it would all be OK because you love us so deeply. You could pretty much vacuum up metadata on anything and everything people do, basically know when they’re going to sneeze before they do, not be in violation of their rights, and give them perfect safety and security.

This gets so awesome so quickly….

Consider all the travel metadata you’re ignoring. With a little cell phone GPS abracadabra, you could capture every time someone leaves their house, how long they’re gone, where they go, and when they get back. You wouldn’t actually be traveling with them or anything intrusive like that, so it would be OK. But you would be collecting all those pregnant metadata bits about their travel habits, bits that would let you look for patterns that might indicate terrorist tendencies (e.g., multiple trips to the fertilizer wholesaler).

Or consider their buying metadata. With some creative grocery-store-rewards-card-sucking, you could get juicy metadata about all the stuff people buy—what they buy, where they buy it, when they buy it, how much they pay, whether they use coupons, whether they use cash or credit, and stuff like that. You could even capture how often people buy certain target things, such as pressure cookers. The best part is, it would be OK because you wouldn’t actually be peeking into their shopping bags. Your Security Brothers could analyze all that awesome data for patterns that might look like terrorist buying habits, such as pressure cooker + fertilizer + batteries. (Who would do that except a terrorist?)

Or consider their clothing metadata. There are so many surveillance cameras everywhere, you could snap up stills of everybody walking by everything everywhere and put it all in a clothing metadata database and run that iPad app and look for terrorist-like patterns. I mean, how many people wear jackets in Tampa, right? That would be suspicious to a third grader. Or get this: You could have your program analyze all those images for folks wearing dark jackets and baseball hats while carrying duffle bags. Who would do that? Pretty much only terrorists, that’s who. And it would be OK because you wouldn’t actually be giving out fashion advice.

See where I’m going with this? My beloved Big Sisters and Brothers, I’ve just scratched the surface. Don’t forget work metadata (see what you can get from ADP), sports-watchingmetadata (ESPN, FedEx Field), medical metadata (need I spell it out?),church/synagogue/temple/mosque metadata (possibly problematic, but doable) and all the subcategories of metadata (driving, flying, and jogging = subcategories oftravel). The possibilities are just about endless: There’s educational metadata (What heads of state study optometry? Terrorist heads of state, that’s who), shaving metadata (skinheads), movie-going metadata, gardening metadata, video-gaming metadata,online banking metadata, and (everyone’s favorite) tax-paying metadata.

Speaking of tax-paying metadata, if you have any difficulties with sources, reach out to the IRS. Those people are metadata ninjas (and they know how to put the squeeze on Winstons).

In other words, it is possible, and legal, to know with virtual certainty who’s going to blow up the next marathon. All you have to do is get enough metadata.

I’ll say it again for emphasis: You just have to go after all the metadata. Safe and legit, easy peasy.

How can you let this opportunity pass? To be perfectly honest, I’d check with Counsel before you say it’s not your duty to take my advice. To know the risk and not act? At minimum, negligence. At worst, we’re probably looking at conspiracy, or maybe even accessory to the next 9/11.

But let’s not go negative. Let’s stay positive. Can anyone say “Precrime”?

Big Sisters and Brothers, I think you know I’m right. Profiling has always gotten a bad rap, but that’s because it has never involved iPads. Now you have the power to make profiling work miracles. With enough metadata, you could profile every single person in the country—not based on their headgear or their skin color, but based on their metadata. NO ONE can argue with metadata.

Stop being metadata mesomorphs. Step up to the plate and make us secure. Profile with certainty, cast that dragnet wide, and catch all those terrorist bastards before they do any more harm.

You have the means, and you have the opportunity. All you need is the will.

Most sincerely,

Daryl J. Lucas

A posthumous letter to George Orwell

Dear Mr. Orwell,

I regret to inform you that your work on 1984 was a waste of time. Please understand, I regard it as a great book. It is well written; a good story; has believable, endearing characters; has a gripping plot. It has all the hallmarks of a true classic. I loved it when I first read it, and I still love it today. I bet even some of the kids who tried to skate by on the Cliff Notes ended up reading the whole thing. (It’s not that long, after all.) Just speaking for myself, if I had to have just one shelf of books, I’d make sure 1984 was on it.

But you didn’t do a very good job. Nobody gets it. The whole point has been lost on everybody.

The other day I was talking to a professional colleague of mine. (We’re in what they call “IT” today, which stands for Information Technology.) He was clearly excited—I mean, he was bona fide thrilled—about a new company his brother had started. This company was making a lot of money installing surveillance cameras all over the streets of Chicago. He went on and on about how wonderful this was. “Pretty soon,” he breathlessly told me, “you won’t be able to go anywhere in Chicago without being videotaped.” He had a big smile on his face—a real one, not the ironic kind that accompanies disappointment. I waited for him to make some kind of sarcastic smirk, or maybe to say something to show that he wasbeing sarcastic. But no smirk came. He was seriously happy about this.

So I said, “Big Brother is watching you!” I was hoping to see some glimpse of pullback; some indication that he realized the absurdity of what he was saying, once I pointed it out to him. But I didn’t really hope this. I just wished it.

“EXACTLY!” he shot back, excitedly. His smile got even bigger and his eyes got wide-eyed-toddler-big. This man, this knowledge worker of the 21st century, this torch-bearer for all that is educated and savvy and smart about our modern world, this ambassador for our bright future, was holding out his blissful ignorance as if it were the brightest star in the sky. He was clueless to the simplest lessons of the recent past. He was oblivious, and oblivious to his obliviousness.

And in that moment, I realized that he was not alone. His brother and their colleagues and the officers of government and all the market forces and systems swirling around them were all in on it. All of them, together, were quite content to have no idea what 1984 had to say to us, whether then or now.

The reason I have written to you, Mr. Orwell, is probably obvious to you by now. That little exchange wasn’t an isolated case. Mr. Big-Brother-Loves-You keeps showing up, Mr. Orwell. I’ve had that conversation at least ten times over the last few years. I’m supremely confident that if you were still alive, you’d be having it too—perhaps prompting you to write another novel (2084?).

People have actually fallen in love with Big Brother, Mr. Orwell. They want him to watch over them. They want him to think for them. They want to surrender their minds and their lives. They think Big Brother will take care of them and make them safe, if they will just let him watch everything they do all the time everywhere and not let them screw up.

I’m sorry to bring such bad news, Mr. Orwell, but I felt you would want to know. I’m sure you thought that writing 1984 would have an effect—you know, that wise people would get your point and act on it.

I bet you thought no society that had 1984 in its high school curricula would be so foolish as to allow government to spy on its own people with impunity.

I bet you thought that people would be too smart to trade their humanity for security.

I bet you thought people would never actually believe that freedom is slavery.

I bet you thought the sarcasm of the term “Big Brother is Watching You” would be clear to those who give power to those who make decisions.

I bet you thought that, after writing 1984, personal freedom would be pretty safe, at least in societies where the book wasn’t banned.

I bet you thought no one would ever actually believe them when they started to say, “We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing.”

I bet you imagined that the absurdity of the world you wrote about would be so obvious—so painfully obvious—that none of the terrors you imagined would ever actually come to pass.

I bet you thought that your story would stay safely in the realm of fiction. I bet you thought that the message was so clear and compelling, it would never come true.

 I know I did.

Ambushed

I have so much to think about and so little time to figure out what I’m thinking. Even in writing down my thoughts I hardly know where to begin, and not just this time. I can’t seem to start a thought that goes anywhere but everywhere. It’s as if it’s all just noise up there rattling around in my head. It won’t come together.

It feels curious and cruel to have to go through life as if life is unchanged when in fact it is changed entirely. Work, grocery shopping, sleep and showers and running errands are right there alongside the doctor appointments and the surgeries and the medications and the prognosis and odds of this and risk of that. It’s as if someone unwelcome has moved in. And he’s not just living in your house; he’s wearing your clothes and eating your food.

Ruthie is sleeping now, but not until a day of storm and rain extracted many tears. It is just now the third day after surgery. The day (of surgery) itself was pleasant compared to what the last 24 hours has been. Perhaps it is because of the way you try to settle back into your routine, but your routine is simply not possible. There are too many variations on it—the pain, the medications, the confinement, the drain sticking out of your side, the obligation to tell four dozen people what’s up, the next appointment and the confusion surrounding it, the siren call of work which never takes a day off. Everybody tells you to get some rest, but even the word “rest” double-crosses you, since now it means “to recover,” which is no rest at all but just an attempt to keep the pain at bay while your body works feverishly (literally) to set things back to normal.

Everybody tells us to rest. I’m not ungrateful for what they are telling us; I am glad they say it. There is just no rest to be gotten.

Still, the kindness behind it all…. Jonathan taking care of the dogs while I’m gone; John and Lori and Debbi taking the dogs when Jonathan can’t be there; Dave and Susan and Craig taking over the lawn mowing; all the folks at Mt. Level ambushing us with hugs and phone numbers, even though we have only just arrived and given nothing; all the Wymers letting me tell my story at reunion and asking to stow away on our journey; countless others just calling or sending a message to let us know we’re not alone. I did not expect any of it. I have been no good friend to anyone, let alone them, and yet here they are. Would I have known otherwise?

It does no good, as far as I can see, to ask why. I’m not even sure they themselves know.

The thought I couldn’t form has formed itself for me: You cannot nurture cynicism in the face of opposition like this. Cynicism is helpless against care and selflessness. One sacrifices for another, and hope is born—not when one starts to scratch a back; not when one pays the other (either back or forward); not when two share the load; not when things are fair. No, in a world of give and take, the sum is always zero; nobody gets anything but jaded. It is when I do for you what is good for you, just to be good to you, and for no benefit of my own at all, that the specter in you dies.

That’s thought enough for now.

The introvert outside

An introvert is a person who looks in at the world through its storefront window. He can see what goes on inside, and in fact, that is what he loves most to do. He is a student of the inside, where the world is; he studies it all the time. He loves it. He stares and loses himself in thought thinking about the inside.

But there is only so much you can do from outside a storefront window. You can study and watch, but that is all. That is what the introvert is, a watcher. He cannot hear anything anyone says inside. He cannot participate in the laughter or the sorrow that transpires inside. He cannot feel the drama that he assumes is happening; he can only imagine it. He cannot comfort or help anyone inside. He cannot buy anything that is for sale. He is not an Insider, and he cannot become one.

It is cold outside. He can see his breath. It is always cold outside, so he is bundled up. Sometimes it snows, but he doesn’t notice. He doesn’t really care, actually. What he really wants is to get warm. He wants somehow to get warm. It is always so cold outside.

People inside think he is rude. Sometimes they cast a glance at him; the glance says, “You are rude. Stay outside, rude person. We don’t want you in here with us. We are not rude, we are extroverts.” They think the watcher stays outside because he does not like them. They think he judged them and made a choice not to be with them. They think he likes being cold. But he has done none of those things, and he is none of those things. There is simply no door for people like him. Do they know?

One of the pains he feels every day is that of just being an introvert. The world goes ’round and good deeds are done when people do the things that extroverts do — give and take with one another in smooth, efficient, pleasant ways — not when they do the things that introverts do, which never involve give and take with others. An introvert is not able to do those things that happen in the good inside of the world. But it is not by choice. It is the way he has always been; it is how he remembers it always being; it is the only world accessible to him.

If he is not in the minority, he certainly feels like he is, since most people appear to be always in the throes of giving and taking with one another in smooth, efficient, pleasant ways. From time to time he sees another who is on the outside looking in. But he has no way of reaching that other galaxy of a world away, so many light years away from his own ice-cold storefront window.

And so he is cut off from the paths most people are taking to get to and from each other. He is always lonely.

He realized a long time ago that being an introvert is one of the most debilitating personality traits you can have. It means you aren’t wired for the give and take of day-to-day life. It means you are permanently alone and helpless in a way that no one else can understand.

He doesn’t know if he was born an introvert, or if he learned it, or if it’s a combination of both. He supposes it’s probably a combination of both, like everything else about us. But he does know that it relates directly to his inability to talk to people in ways that make sense to them. He is not able to represent his thoughts with words in normal conversation such that his true thoughts come out. No matter what words he chooses, the right ones never come out, and the message gets all mangled. As soon as he says the words, his mind thinks, No, that is not what I’m thinking! It is always this way. Always.

He realized this very early in life. Whenever he would talk to people, he could not say what was actually in his head. No matter how hard he tried or how long he tried, he could never get his words to match his thoughts. He would talk to people, and he would say things to them that didn’t make sense even to him. I don’t mean that they would be nonsensical; I mean that they would not represent his thoughts. And the more he would say the worse it would get.

So he just learned to stop talking. It was the only way to avoid miscommunicating with people and misleading them or confusing them so often about so much. It was certainly less frustrating for him. And it was less embarrassing, too, as most of the time he just said things that dressed him up like a clown.

He has never been able to fix this. God knows he has tried. But the trying never works. He pounds on the storefront window and he screams into it, but no one inside hears him. After a while, they get tired of trying, too. They stop motioning for him to come in. They just turn away and go on with what they were doing, confused and maybe a little glad that he can’t reach them. After all, he looks like a lunatic, gesticulating and screaming and looking frantic and not simply joining them inside where it is warm.

They think he must love it out here, freezing to death.

How silly. How so very silly.

On skepticism

I saw a story on Yahoo today (by Pete Thomas of GrindTV.com) about a photograph of a whale shark, by Shawn Heinrichs. There is a link to the photograph at the end of this article if you want to see it. It is simply a shot of a whale shark in which the lens is partly underwater, with a boat nearby in the background. It’s quite stunning.

It is a story because “some users [are] expressing skepticism about its authenticity,” according to the article. “That’s mainly because there was little or no detail about the image, but Shawn Heinrichs, who captured the image last week at Isla Mujeres in Mexico, assures that it’s genuine.”

I was struck by this story because of the skepticism. We have clichés that assert the unique power of observation: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” “Seeing is believing.” People have accepted these clichés as expressions of truth for probably longer than anyone knows for sure. And yet their power is clearly waning. A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Seeing is no longer believing. Seeing is just another form of possibly being duped by a huckster. Now, pictures can be faked, so they can no longer be trusted to convey truth.

I am not disputing either the truth of the clichés or the malleability of digital images. Rather, I am taken by the rapidity with which people will take the skeptical view; the propensity of people to think thusly: Because it might be fake, I choose to believe that it is. Or, to use the clichéd version: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

To be sure, that cliché is rooted in reality. One needs only to buy something from a used car salesman to know this.

And yet the cliché, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” collides with another: “Truth is stranger than fiction,” something we observe on the news every day. If seeming too good to be true compels things to be false (to our way of thinking), how can it also be that truth is stranger than fiction? If indeed truth is stranger than fiction, then clearly there is some percentage of truth that we feel compelled to disbelieve, simply because it seems unbelievable, not because it is untrue. And if indeed both are somehow true at the same time, we are getting hit from both ends at once, and we are imperceptibly (and forcibly) blind to some percentage of truth for not one but two reasons—either it seems too good to be true and yet is, or it seems too strange to be true and yet is.

I’m not sure it does much good to ask why we do this. In the search for answers, we would land upon untruths and convince ourselves that they were true. That’s no good. We would always be at least partly wrong—and blind to the fact.

I also don’t know whether Shawn Heinrichs’ photo of a whale shark is genuine, and it may very well be that only Shawn Heinrichs knows, but this is not about whether his photo is or isn’t genuine. It is about skepticism. Skepticism has its place, but perceived goodness and perceived strangeness are not such occasions. If something seems unbelievable, it’s really beside the point. Such a perception has little to do with whether it is, in fact, true.

And yet off we go, being skeptical willy-nilly anyway.

It looks like we as a species are desperately wont to alter reality to suit our own prejudices. Even though we simply cannot make things true or false with the force of our beliefs, that is exactly what we try to do, chronically.

It seems to me we should not mistake raw skepticism for objectivity. They’re not the same thing. Doubt has its place. But no one ever got any closer to the truth by letting it pre-judge a conclusion. If something seems too good to be true, it may just be stranger than fiction.

The original link to the story, by Pete Thomas of GrindTV.com, is here: http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/34221/photographer+explains+stunning+and+unique+whale+shark+image/

Let me think about that

I worked at the library today—finished one article for TechRepublic, started another one, wrote a long, well-considered email, did some job-related tasks, and spent a lot of time—a lot more than I usually do—in thought. What a pleasure it was to sit in the quiet; to have the time to think; to ponder without fear of interruption or sudden assault by someone else’s agenda or by someone else’s loud extroverted mouth extroverting all over my private party.

I was able to be myself for a little while. I was able to have thoughts and to value them, without someone else questioning why I was was having thoughts and not doing something. I was able to be.

I let my mind run free and I followed it, and no one stopped me.

Those were hours of warm sunshine. And they made me realize with a realization that I had not perceived so clearly before: I do not want to live my life just doing things. I do not want to equate activity with goodness. I do not want to have a bucket list that does all the thinking for me. I want to live. And for me, that means taking time to think and to ponder and to finish formulating thoughts all the way to the end as much as I can. I want to examine my life all the time, and I want to do it without shame or fear or the constant need to defend my lapses of frenetic activity.

That is the life I want to live. That is the life I am going to live. And I don’t want any extroverts telling me to stop. We can live together peacefully. You can do and I can think. We can be different. We can.

Can’t we?