On Story Telling

Story telling is the key to human cooperation.

Apes and other animals can’t grasp stories and therefore can’t be motivated towards projects larger than their instincts.

To us, everything is a story.

Religion is a story about life, about what we ought to do with our time on this earth, and what happens to our consciousness after that time ends.

Love is a story about mutual commitment to each other’s happiness: a shared story

Money is a story we tell each other about the value of paper.

Our government is a story we wrote collectively about the ideal way to organize and protect human interests.

Our fears are stories we tell ourselves about what could go wrong.

Our hopes are stories about what could go right.

We use stories to instruct our children about values, about right and wrong.

Politicians and media use stories and narratives with intention, to manipulate.

Wars are fought because of the stories we tell about each other’s intentions.

A good painting tells a story,

A good song tells a story,

And even uninteresting art can be improved by an interesting story.

Storytelling is the mother of all art.

Storytelling is intrinsic to our psychology and shines out from the earliest stages of human childhood development:

Show a child a tool they’ve never seen before, and they’ll tell you a story about its use.

Ask them to draw a picture and they’ll tell the story to accompany the sketch.

Ask them about almost anything, like their favorite stuffed animal and they’ll tell you a story about its wants and intentions.

We constantly tell ourselves stories about other people’s intentions.

Many find that the most desirable trait in the opposite sex, or in a partner is a sense of humor. Being funny is in essence, the ability to tell certain kinds of stories.

I’ve found that the best company to have, is that of a person who can tell a good story, and I don’t just mean a campfire-fictional story, but a story about their day; about something from a past experience or about what might happen tomorrow; even an improv story about what that weird guy in the checkout line was buying. If you know someone who is fun to be around, you will probably find upon inspection, that at the heart of their allure, is a knack for telling a good story.

Having a conversation with someone who is bad at telling stories is painful; as if being held hostage by social politeness, while being waterboarded by words.

So it seems we are all authors, by and by we are our own audience too.

Successful, motivated people tell themselves stories about their future triumphs.

Depression makes us tell ourselves stories about how we’ll fail.

Sometimes our actions in the world don’t align with the stories we tell about them. This is considered a character flaw. It’s bad storytelling. We say actions speak louder than words, but that’s not always true subjectively. Sometimes the words in our mind are louder than the memories of actions. Yet, who you are subjectively depends a lot on the the kind of stories you tell yourself. And who you are objectively depends a lot on the actions born of those stories.

These little internal narratives and stories matter. The stories we tell ourselves today, will effect the stories our children have to live in the future.

What kind of story are you going to write today, what kind of story will you write with your life? These are the questions that motivate me.

I want to read a good story

I want to tell a good story

I want to live a good story

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Reflections on Bullshit 

Thoughts on past and present Presidents and the distinction between lying and bullshitting


Considering that throughout history, a certain percentage of all communication has been bullshit, and by means of technology there has been an exponential growth in the amount of communicating we humans do, there is therefore undoubtedly more bullshitting going on in the world than ever before. 
Secondly, it’s important to note that in the case of lying one must know the truth and choose to deceive, for it is impossible for someone to lie unless he feels he knows the truth. In contrast, bullshitting requires no such conviction. As Harry G. Frankfurt writes in his compact mini book on the topic:

“The bullshitter …. does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

This distinction between bullshitting vs. lying highlights key distinctions between people, politicians, and more specifically: past and present presidents. For example if Obama was a liar, I think it’s fair to say that he was aware he was lying; whether his motives were malevolent or benevolent, I get the impression that he was largely aware of the truth. President Trump however, appears completely indifferent to the truth, and therefore by definition is less of a liar due to this seeming indifference. If Frankfort is correct in his ethics, and if I’m right in calling Trump a bullshitter of the highest caliber, then he is a greater enemy of the truth.  

“Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic” – Harry G. Frankfurt 

Building a Fence

Today I built a fence

I bought premium lumber

And I fastened it together with all of my best arguments

 

My fence is tall and grand

It defines my space

And separates what is yours from what is mine

 

The view from inside is comforting

My dogs do not stray

And the wind enters broken

 

The grass doesn’t grow here anymore

I pace around the trampled soil  

And I call out through the cracks of my planked security

 

Time well spent

Moving on from social media

Recently I met a 98 year old woman, she lived alone, and she seemed more active than most folks half her age. She was happy. I remarked to her that I was in awe of how much technological and social change she must have witnessed in the course of her life. She replied “Oh the stories I could tell you.” I wished that it was a sincere offer, and that I had the time to listen.  
This inspired me to think about the arrival of my 38th year in this world.  So I’ve been reflecting on life, as people do on occasion, but on this occasion I’ll do so publicly via this blog. I have almost 38 years of consciousness under my belt, what would it feel like to live for 60 more years? It’s slightly embarrassing to acknowledge that it’s only recently I have become aware of how subtle habits translate into longterm changes. Like the butterfly effect, it’s all the little things we do that seem swirl into full hurricanes later in life. With the current expected life span of men at 76 and women at 81, there seems to be ample time for storms to brew. Though a long life in the modern world comes with an abundance of choice, opportunity, and freedom to decide how to spend our time; an increasing life span also creates more opportunities for benign choices to become malignant tumors. If I only lived to be 30, my diet might not matter, nor my frivolous expenditures, but long life provides time to reap the compound interest of every habit. The longer the life, the more impact we’ll feel from the smallest degrees of deviation from optimal.
Lately, I see the tiny flutter of my current habits and wonder what hurricanes I’m forcasting for myself. Am I eating well enough? More importantly: what about my habits of mind? And my children: Are my words of guidance and advice unintentionally instilling insecurity or building confidence? Am I providing a framework for lasting happiness, or building structure doomed to collapse? Am I spending money on frivolous things? 5 bucks a day wasted at a gas station could be the difference between a comfortable retirement and 5 extra years of work. Most often, I contemplate time spent on my smartphone; how much of my conscious life is spent browsing Facebook, or doing even less meaningful activities like binge watching cat videos. Smart phones are to attention what black holes are to matter. Even as I type this criticism (on my phone), I can’t help but dismiss the irony and enjoy the allure of this technology. 
But at what cost? The past seven years has been an interesting experiment. I love learning, smartphones and the internet have made that process so incredibly easy. I wonder though, as I watch my daughters falling in line with most adults and all of their peers, if we aren’t all trading a more longterm richness of conscious experience for short term convenience.  
In the past seven years I have no meaningful memories or stories to tell of “that one time on Facebook”. I can’t imagine I’ll ever sit with my grandchildren and tell them about that crazy time I spent on Instagram, or googling random shit. And yet the average adult will spend 3 hrs and 15 mins a day using mobile apps. I know this because I googled it. On my smartphone. I suppose between social media and audible, I’m somewhere in the vicinity of that number. It’s very nauseating for me to imagine all of the productive, meaningful things I could have accomplished if that time was given back to me. And it’s not that I haven’t done meaningful things, (I do enjoy audible) or that a person can’t do both, it’s just that I’m coming to terms with the truth: This is a habit that will inevitably detract from the potential richness of my life, and my experience. 
I don’t want to someday arrive at my 98th birthday, and try to summon the memories of 75 thousand hours of staring at a phone, or a television (68 years x 3hrs/day). Currently, if I’ve spend 3 hrs a day using an iPhone for the past 6 years, It’s the equivalent to googling nonstop for 273 days. The average American watches 35 hours of television! I like to think my smart phone numbers are lower than those, and certainly my television numbers are a fraction of the average, but regardless I am certain that I’ve wasted an obscene amount of time. 

In order to correct this misuse of my time, I will first attempt to find better ways to spend my time than on social media.   Hopefully his blog is the first step in phasing out social media time altogether. And with any luck, it might even become a better outlet for those who care to keep in touch to do so. Maybe through this blog we can create more intimate, meaningful ways to share ideas, and stories.  My hope is that 75 thousand hours from now, this will feel like time well spent.