A new form of nihilism

Nihilism is the philosophy that life has no intrinsic meaning. Nihilism commonly then leads to conclusions like:

  • Let’s just kill ourselves now.
  • Let’s have a life of hedonism and enjoying yourself while you can.
  • Actually, you’re probably going to enjoy yourself more if find some sense of purpose.

But the common narrative around nihilism tends to a personal sense of purpose – about the individual’s lack of intrinsic meaning or purpose.

With the election of Donald Trump, and its repurcussions regarding action on climate change, demonstrating how apparently stupid, selfish, ignorant or self destructive a huge chunk of our society is, I think a more deep seated nihilism is seating in.

That is – when talking about combating climate change, from the perspective of the human race as a whole, it’s seen as a good thing for humans to survive, or for things not to be unpleasant for us in the near future.

But given the apparent selfishness and stupidity of people, I do start wondering maybe it really doesn’t matter if it all goes to custard. Of course care – but from a nihilistic perspective things might be easier for me if I just didn’t. 

This College Humor video sums it up well:

I used to believe the 2012 prophecy.

It should be apparent from my blog and for anyone who knows me, that I prefer to take a rational, evidence based approach to things.

I’ve recently been considering that truth shouldn’t trump all, and that if someone gets comfort out of say, believing horoscopes, then why should rationalism seek to destroy that? On the otherhand – I think the willingness to believe conspiracy theories, also has people believing that climate change isn’t happening, and that’s concerning to me.

What might not be apparent – is that I didn’t always take a rationalist approach, and it’s easy for me myself to forget that.

I used to genuinely believe the 2012 Mayan prophecy. If you’re not already familiar with it – it was a prediction that ‘the world as we know it’ will end on December 21 2012 – the date that the Mayan 5,126 year calendar ends.

mayan-calendar

What ‘the world as we know it’ ending means wasn’t exactly clear. For me, at the time it meant a collapse of the global system of governance and an anarchistic uprising.

My belief in this prophecy did have real world effects. Most concretely in that, when I was 18 years old (in 2004), I took out an interest free overdraft with no intent of paying it back – the global financial system will have collapsed by then. Other shortsighted decision making – like my reckless disregard for getting criminal convictions for graffiti also stemmed from this belief that it wouldn’t matter in eight years.

By the time 2012 came around – I had long stopped believing the prophecy.

This part of my life is a useful look in at how beliefs are formed, and why people hold the beliefs they do.

For me, a big part of believing the 2012 prophecy was that a lot of people who I thought were cool around me also either believed it, or enjoyed talking about it, and from memory, I didn’t hear much of a counter opinion to it..

I think this shows that the kinds of beliefs people have about things, does depend on how common the belief is in the people around them, and also how offering countering beliefs in a civil and persuasive manner is probably genuinely useful in grounding people’s beliefs, even if it doesn’t change their mind at the time.

It also give insight into why someone will hold a belief, for me, it’s because I liked the idea of this great prophecy, and a new world populated by people like me.

I think belief in especially end of world prophecies, but also global elite conspiracies are indicative of a cognitive shortcut – it’s much easier to imagine the world coming to an end, or some dramatic change – that is to image what the world is going to look like in ten years, or twenty years, or thirty years, maintaining the status quo.

So I guess I should be more sympathetic to people who I think hold irrational or baseless beliefs – but at the same time this actually encourages me to speak out more. I might have made less bad decisions if someone had taken the time to explain to me that there was no objective reason to believe that the 2012 prophecy was true. But of course that would have me then questioning whether my friends were as cool as I thought they were.

Should I share my posts on reddit?

I have a conflicted relationship with reddit.

My current most immediate thoughts of reddit is that it’s a toxic, addictive and mostly unhealthy internet subculture/habit.

But, there are some really cool subreddits – /r/highqualitygifs is perhaps my favourite, producing such beauties as this:

I’ve also written before about /r/wholesomememes.

 

There’s other cool creative subreddits like /r/photoshopbattles or /r/writingprompts.

There’s good quality image subreddits like /r/historyporn.

Reddit is also a good first place for location based information, eg. /r/newzealand.

 

I have just created a new reddit account – where I actively filter a lot of the popular subreddits – /r/the_donald, /r/politics, etc.

And maybe I shouldn’t be browsing reddit at all – but I have different question.

 

It would be good for the visibility of my blog and other projects to be posting links to sites like reddit. There are plenty of subreddits where my posts would be relevant. /r/theoryofreddit perhaps.

However, I feel conflicted because do I really want my content circulating amongst a toxic culture?

Self promotion seems icky somehow. Lets consider the approach that we’re all really vying for is people’s attention. You could suggest that to improve the quality (the signal!) of what people are consuming, would be a good thing, and so that sharing your material would be a good thing.

 

What do you do when someone doesn’t message you back? v2.0

The last post on this subject  gets the single most traffic on this blog, but it’s a bit long, so here’s a more concise and more practical version.

Here’s the situation: you’re on Tinder, and one of these two situations has happened:

  • You’ve been chatting with a girl for a while, and you send a message ‘Yeah that’s funny haha. Do you want to get coffee this weekend?’ And boom – you don’t hear any thing back from her.
  • You’ve just matched with her on Tinder and you send an original message like ‘Oooh hey I like your dog! I have a dog too. He’s a Jack Russel named Calvin’; you get no response.

If the situation is that you’re just sending a message like ‘Sup?’, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and not getting responses to those, then you need to take a step back and appreciate that girls on internet dating sites and inundated with messages like that, and yours does nothing to stand out from all the others.

So you’re sending creative, interesting messages – and you don’t get a response – what do you do now?

The most important thing is to preserve your own mental and emotional state.

Dating, especially the early stages of dating, should be fun.  If you’re a creative and interesting guy, and you genuinely like yourself – that’s a good thing; that’s what all us should be seeking to be in life – and what we are typically seeking in a partner. So if you genuinely like yourself, then don’t change those things that you like about yourself because you’re not getting a response; it’s better to be alone and liking yourself than to be with someone and feeling like you’ve sold yourself short.

If there are things that you don’t like about yourself – then work on fixing those things.

I suggest the following steps for dealing with no-replies:

Don’t fixate.

In the scenario where you don’t know this person particularly well (eg. You matched on Tinder), then don’t assume that this is on the one person for you. Remember that it’s a wide world with lots of opportunities[1].

Maintain social and mental state.

If you’re frustrated, then go do whatever you need to do feel better. Go for a walk, have a shower, talk to a friend, play a video game. The frustration will pass.

Calibrate

Flirting is a balancing act between being bold and being respectful. Too forward and you appear inconsiderate and disrespectful. Too reserved and you’re boring.

If you don’t get a reply, chances are your message falls too far on either end of this spectrum. So calibrate, try new things.

Should you send a second message?

This is something I’ve gone back forth on. On one hand the argument for sending a second message is that it’s a pragmatic acceptance your message might have been lost amongst all the others, and that it needs to be you who reinitiates the conversation. On the other hand – it’s back to that main thing – maintaining your own social and emotional wellbeing. Sending a second message might make you feel worse and erode your sense of dignity.

I’m currently of the opinion that, generally you shouldn’t send a second message. Dating should be a two way street, and at least in my experience, I’m going to hold some resentment if it feels like I’m investing more effort into the relationship.

Instead, let it go, for at least a couple of weeks – and then perhaps, if you are still interested then, try pick things up again then. In that time you might be chatting someone else.

[1] If you happen to live in a small town with few opportunities – then do consider moving. One’s success with dating does depending on their available dating pool.

To shave, or not to shave?

Every November, I grow a moustache for Movember – the annual event to raise money awareness for men’s health.

I’ve found, probably as a fact of getting old, my moustache gets better every year; better in the sense of being fuller and more well covered.

This year, I opted for a ‘Trucker’.

moustache.jpg.

Toward the end of the month – in an impulsive moment, I thought ‘Ah hah! You know what would suit this look? – An earring!’. I went out and bought a thick earing to put my ear that I’d had pierced and stretched more than ten years ago.

The resulting look was this:

 

Now – charming smile aside, this look is a bit non-conformist and provocative. It has a theme of villainy (a pirate was most common term used), which was part of the fun of doing it in the first place.

When I was younger, I very much did do the ‘non-conforming expression of personal identity’ thing. Here’s an example:

10361046_10203681288973731_1740033144793558117_n.jpg

Since then – my philosophy has more been ‘Having a neutral look opens more doors’.

A non-conforming look can serve as a useful social signal to others with your values; there’s an easy visual identifier, you know that those are ‘your people’.

But this can exclude you from other people who you might otherwise get on well with, when they have to instantly deal with the discomfort, or their ingrained biases,  caused by your unconventional appearance. If a man looking like a pirate knocked on your door asking for directions, the first thing you might think is that he’s actually casing your place for gold and plunder.

Also – a non-conventional dress sense is a fairly superficial expression of values; while it’s probably safe to reason that someone with facial piercings and tattoos is more likely to be gay friendly and otherwise tolerant – a better gauge on this kind of thing would be actually having a conversation with them.

Here’s what I’m currently looking like:

Back home welly 019 (2).JPG

This image demonstrates the concern I have – my look is a bit scary.

There’s another reason to consider shaving, or not. Comfort.

The moustache is uncomfortable at times, and I find myself stroking it a bit.

Shaving can also be uncomfortable too; I’m not the best at shaving and I often give myself razor burn. I’m typically most comfortable about three days after shaving with a bit of stubble. A few days after that it starts getting itchy and uncomfortable.

But I what I’ve found, is that even though there are good reasons to shave – there’s an perhaps egotistical resistance to it. I’m aware that a big part of my reason to shave is social conformity – and conceding to social conformity feels like a weakness.

I ended up shaving. Here’s what I look like now.

photos of me 004.JPG

The earring is still there. I need to go to someone with a pair of reversible pliers to take it out.

I am considering still having an earring, but a smaller one. One that says ‘a bit original and interested in design, but not outrageous’.

Why I’m pro-contraception/encouraging contraception.

contraception.jpg

I advocate measures the encourage people to use contraception, or otherwise dissuade them from having kids without considerable thought.

For example, I advocate some form of monetary incentive to take long term contraception such as depo, and IUD or a hormonal implant.

Some people instinctively recoil at this suggestion, arguing that it’s a form of eugenics, and who are we to decide who has kids or not, and that having kids is everyone’s right.

I think this position indicates a kind of blase regard for human life. Having a kid appears to be treated like having any other commodity, like owning a house, or or travelling the world, without regard for the bundle of feelings that is entailed in producing a new life.

Mine is a ‘life is suffering’ argument; I think that for most of us, life, while totally awesome, also contains a great deal of suffering and difficulty.

We should be taking great care, and with a sense of great responsibility when we talk about whether new life should be coming into the world or not.

Often I think, when people argue for the rights of people to have children, they’re prioritising the feelings of those people who want to have children, over the feelings of those children that will come into existence.

I recognise that most of us likely have a biological imperative to have children, and have strong feelings urging us to have children. My argument isn’t to dismiss these feelings, but to rationally put in incentives to offset these feelings. After all, we often think or act irrationally, and I’m all for macro-policy that helps guide us in the right direction.

Some people might argue that my argument puts too much emphasis of the unpleasant aspects of life, and would instead make the argument that ‘life is a gift’. I think this is a bit pie in the sky and doesn’t reflect the depth of human experience.

A more substantive rebuttal would be that I’m making an implicit judgement about what people are capable of raising children who are able to have a good life, and who isn’t.

I think this is a reasonable argument, and I’d stress that I’m not seeking to create a perfect formula about what makes good parents. What I’m really seeking to do with this post, is to combat the attitude that ‘having children is everyone person’s right’. I think we should be far more considerate when deciding whether someone should come into the world, and put the feelings of that potential person first.

In defense of “What do you do?”.

A friend recently posted this video:

The gyst of it is that the small talk question ‘What do you do’ fails to address the individual qualities of the person, and is instead an attempt to put people in boxes.

I concede that there are some problems with the question ‘What would you do’ – mainly that it can be an awkward question for people who don’t work – eg. people who are stay at home parents or unemployed. The question carries an implication that working has higher intrinsic value that these other occupations.

To address this – I prefer to ask the question ‘What do you do during the day?’ – this is a bit more open to possibilities outside work.

But I don’t think the small talk question is entirely without merit, especially if it’s reasonable to assume that they do in fact work fulltime.

I think the suggestion that the question is boring or irrelevant discounts how a big a part of our life work is, for those of us (the majority) who work full time.

We spend third of a waking week at work. I think it’s only natural that’d we’d want to talk about it. That might be because we need to let of steam, or because we take pride in what we do.

I think the suggestion that it’s wrong that work might be the largest priority in one’s life is either naive or cynical. I agree that work shouldn’t necessarily be the biggest priority in our lives – (and I think that attitude is a cultural throwback from the baby boomer generation). But for many is a major priority, and they shouldn’t be see as ‘less in tune’ or similar because they prioritise their work, and not say, writing poetry.

I think it implies that one can’t make the world a better place through their fulltime work, or being paid somehow discounts the value of what you’re doing for the world. I think if you look at the vast majority of the developments in the last century, that have improved our lives – technology, medicine, science have come from people  going to work everyday.

But ok – not every person who works fulltime is doing one of these jobs. For many people working is a means to achieving their top priorities – providing for their families or travelling for example.

In any case, their working week still makes up a large chunk of their life, and warrants attention.

Personally – I like telling people about what I do, (though I think for many people web development is probably interesting for about one minute max), and I also enjoy learning about what other people do.

I don’t think ‘What do you do’ is the only small talk question we should ask – and indeed, perhaps it’s a symptom of a lack of creativity – but let’s err on the side of not dismissing people for valuing work.

There’s another reason that work related small talk questions are good – because they’re safe. Sure asking someone what the craziest thing they’ve ever done is, or what their hopes and dreams are might be more interesting, but someone who you’ve just met might not feel comfortable sharing that with you. Asking about more neutral topics allows both parties to get comfortable with each other before getting more personal.

Here are some other small talk questions that also work:

  • What do you do after work?
  • What do you do on the weekends?
  • Are you watching any TV shows at the moment?
  • Do you write or make music or anything?
  • What do you usually eat?