Sunday, November 30, 2008

Communicate- and be confident in- your preferences.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An essay on the movement to protect an endangered species of human experience: the ugly- but necessary- Negative:

Most people would argue that removing negatives from their lives- stress, inefficiencies, chores, etc., would make everything better: this, we will see, is a common misperception. Before getting to the crux of the matter, a brief glimpse of how we may be off in our evaluation of what is negative, what is positive, and what is necessary. Let us (re)consider stress: it is often blamed for people's overwhelm in life; yet, it is this same principle that is the impetus for growth (think of a muscle). Stress, you see, is not the problem; it is how we harness or fail to harness it that determines its effect on us. So to start, our valuation lens may be in need of correction.

Indeed, Nature intends for balance. We see evidence in this through various cycles: life and death, plate tectonics, day and night, seasonal changes, oscillations and circadian rhythms. This is all an effort to maintain some homeostasis- on an organismal, ecological, or societal level (our government, for example, even has built in a system of checks and balances). We as a culture have put great emphasis on and find value in this concept of balance: why else would be be obsessed with "averages"- baseball batting averages, average income, average temperature, crime levels, even average expectations of others (i.e. schemas, stereotypes, etc.)? We truly are enamoured by this idea of measuring and monitoring equilibria. Even the metric for valuating things (i.e. scales) often straddle zero, the Cartesian plane the quintessential symmetry.

What, then, does all of this have to do about removing negative from our lives? It is simple, really. As a society, we have become obsessed with improvement, having things just so, and living so that we can get everything that we want, and the faster the better. We think that if we have everything "perfect"- all good and no bad, achieve everything fast nothing to slow us down, all wins no losses- that life will be at its apex. But this fully and utterly defies the balance that nature intends for. In fact, if we remove the bad, we also slowly remove our ability to deal with it. And some bad things are inevitable: this is how Nature operates...because Nature is a little smarter than we are, Nature doesn't try to push the envelope like we do so often, and because Nature understands that balance is the sustainable infrastructure for life. We keep wanting to soar higher but, just as in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where fans at the top of the floating room threaten Charlie, it is imprudent to think that we can sustain an upward trajectory without the need to restore balance eventually returning us to equilibrium. Again, some bad things can happen, but it is not for us to necessarily avoid these negative things, but learn how to deal with them. Likewise, it is better to know how to comfort another that to try to keep them in perpetual glee.

The negative implications for removal of negative things may be rolled out in a psychological context: I argue that we have an internal ranking system (hierarchy) that reflects the balance on which Nature operates. Think of ten things (both good and bad) that you may encounter on a daily basis, and rank them, awarding "1" to the best and "10" to the worst of these things. If we were to remove the "bad", Nature will urge us to restore our balance by necessarily re-ranking that which remains (i.e. the original positives): the result? A recalibrated balance: which generates a new average, new middle, and new therefore "best"s and "worst"s within the hierarchy. Objectively, what may have been considered really great in the original set of factors now potentially holds the title of worst (of the bests). In order to preserve our MOST positive regard for these "good" things, then, we must maintain the original balance- that is, using the whole set of ten things, so that we pit the good with the "real bads."

Likewise, if we removed all "good" things from the original set, left with the original "bad"s, we would recalibrate and re-rank, finding some of the "bad"s not so bad. We are amazingly adaptive in this sense, making the "best" of (bad) things/circumstances; this adaptiveness is greater evidence of the innate balance that we need, which necessarily consists of two sides: greater things and their lesser- counterparts.

In light of the macrocosm of balance in Nature, and the human-level microcosm equivalent internal ranking system: let the negative hold their original place: they actually serve a purpose in the natural scale of life.
When a friend asked me my take on whether women secretly revel in being gawked/whistled at, straddling the disgust at and pleasure of being objectified:
"Initially -and I think this goes for even uncontroversial exchanges- we like to think that we don't need it, that we are above it (favoring the disgust, or indifferent, viewpoint); but we secretly pocket this feedback nonetheless, and replay it as positive feedback (favoring the pleasure interpretation) when a time comes that such a buffering effect, as might be afforded by such feedback, may be needed."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A situation can only be awkward if you're not confident :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today has a high starting value. Get high execution points and it's a successful day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

True story: happened 10 minutes ago. Location: joint bathroom I share with my suite mate.
Not really philosophical, but contains an epiphany, so I think it qualifies.

(08:00:00am) Roommate: Hey! What time did you go to bed this morning?
(08:00:04am) Me: Morninggg, um...4?
(08:00:05am) Roommate: Omg! You have to start getting more sleep!
(08:00:10am) Me: Yeah, and two mornings ago I went to bed at 5 and got up at 10...well, at least I got over 3.5 last night...
(08:00:20am) Roommate: Why so little sleep?
(08:00:28am) Me: I have a meeting with my (PhD) advisor this morning and I'm working on a proposal, but it's my fault for staying up so late. I took a couple hours off from working yesterday...
(08:00:45am) Roommate: Gosh! With all this work you're doing, you should have just gone for your MD...
(08:01:15am) Me: F***.

I walk away wondering if it's too late to matriculate for med school Spring classes...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Never operate out of fear, only strength.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A lot of everyday human behavior is adaptation woven around uncertainty. With a subconscious zeal, we learn efficient routes through the labyrinth of contingency fractals we encounter on a day-to-day basis to reach a psychological equilibrium of baseline expectation* -a temporary reprieve- until a higher set of unknowns penetrates and therefore violates this asylum, whence we set off anew on the learning path.
In this light, life should always be at least somewhat of an adventure :)

*Our everyday behavior is guided by these baseline expectations.
[And if a previously certain thing suddenly becomes uncertain, it becomes a chutes and ladders scenario where the uncertain thing must be patched before moving on along the life-needs continuum towards higher functioning.]