Morning Ed: Mindspace {2017.11.02.Th}

[Mi1] Our own Rufus F wrote a piece for the Partially Examined life on Louis CK, Schopenhauer and suffering.

[Mi2] What mental illness looks like.

[Mi3] Marilyn Monroe recounts when she went to the psych ward.

[Mi4] When I was a young, I was big into the idea of stoicism. I found that while I needed to do a better job of keeping myself in check, I just wasn’t meant for it.

[Mi5] Mark Humphries on the limitations of neurons.

[Mi6] There are, apparently, four kinds of introversion.

[Mi7] Scientific proof that we really do hate Mondays.

[Mi8] Tim Harford looks at the wastefulness of wishful thinking.

[Mi9] If you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you will… become judgmental as hell.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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37 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Mindspace {2017.11.02.Th}

  1. [Mi9] All I’ve gotta say on that score is, “Yup.”

    My personal example is every time that Scott Alexander (of Slate Star Codex) starts complaining about the awful burden of being white and nerdy, my immediate reaction is, “Motherfucker, I know it’s not that bad.”

    Now I think I’m right in this particular instance. But it’s the shared experience that makes me dismiss the complaints out of hand.

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  2. [Mi6] Kinda the Thinking and Restrained type. A co-student at jujitsu and I were discussing socializing–at the school, or with colleges at work, where I stated that I didn’t socialize with fellow coworkers outside of work because 1) work subjects always came up and I’m not getting paid to talk about work in my off hours, and 2) not many of the people I work with I have any real interest in socializing with out of work-there’s only been 2-3 in 25 years. She asked, “is your whole life compartmentalized?” Yes, yes it is, and I like it that way.

    [Mi9] Yeah, there’s that, and then there’s the types of folks who complain and don’t do anything. They just want to vent. A co-worker of mine is always complaining about money and often financial problems, yet just went out for two weeks to a bunch of conventions for dolls (think very expensive barbie dolls–it’s all about the clothes I guess). She knows she should scale back, but doesn’t. Welp, that ain’t getting a lot of sympathy from me.

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  3. Mi9 [empathy not correlating with shared experiences]: I think I may have read this article, or one like it, somewhere else. The examples from the study, or at least the examples the article mentions, strike me as overdetermined.

    In the polar plunge example, we see the reactions of people who went through with it against those who didn’t. We don’t see the reactions of those who didn’t go through with it against those who also didn’t. In the unemployment example, we see the reactions of those who overcame unemployment without resorting to drug dealing, etc., against those who did resort to that. We don’t see the reactions of those who did resort to drug dealing to others. We see the reaction of bullied non-bullies to bullied bullies, but not the reaction of bullied bullies to bullied bullies.

    Now, it’s easy to take my objection too far. No two persons’ experiences are exactly the same and maybe there has to be some way to generalize. I intuitively see how someone might be less inclined to empathize with someone else whose experiences are similar. But I also think the failure to empathize might have something to do with the non-empathizers drawing distinctions between experiences.

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  4. [Mi1]: interesting piece. A couple of thoughts:

    It’s kind of Panglossian to say “oh wow, everything is amazing, so we should be happy when we, like, get on an airplane.” Yes, it’s amazing that I can walk into the wal-mart and (mostly) find the food that I need, any pay for it with paper and metal tokens I have traded time and energy for….but the wal-mart itself is mostly a depressing place to be – too loud, rude people, too brightly-lit.

    Perhaps, yes, we are ungrateful because we forget how bad it COULD be (I do not have to hoe my nine bean-rows in order to have beans to eat) but also, I think some of us imagine how much nicer it could be. Airline travel used to be more fun, didn’t it? Or was that just because I was a kid back in the 70s and fit more comfortably into a small space and had parents to insulate me from the really rude people?

    I think also expectations have gone up. I know what I am expected to do in a year in my position is bigger than what my dad was expected to do 30 years ago in his career when he was at the point I am at now. I think for me the biggest suckers of “happiness” are: pressures on my time where I have to do things I would rather not do, dealing with other people who sometimes treat me like I’m a servant, my own expectations that being a professor was seen in some way a respectable career (it isn’t, not any more), and, just generally my sense that everyone else is happier than I am and has made better choices in their life.

    (I had a friend in grad school who used to watch Jerry Springer because she said “Even after a really bad day, I can say, ‘At least I’m not one of the mooks on Jerry Springer,'” but I find myself unable to take any comfort from that sort of thing).

    I’m happiest when I’m working on things I WANT to be working on, but more and more that seems to be a rarity.

    Or maybe the actual answer is, “We’re not actually supposed to be happy very often in this life, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.”

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    • Before anyone pushes me to call some hotline, you probably should be aware I’m reading the reviewer comments on my latest manuscript this morning. (NO ONE does passive-aggressive better than an anonymous academic reviewer).

      So my concept of “happiness” is probably twisted by the fact that I am doing one of my #1 un-favorite tasks this morning.

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        • I’m more angry at the whole game and how it is rigged that the people who do the work see only intangible benefits (‘you get to keep your job’) while all the money is made by others.

          The reviewers don’t get paid, either.

          I have to publish, as an academic, but I loathe most of the process. (I like the writing, I hate the submission, the comments, the rewriting, the waiting forever and then having stuff needing revision when I’m really too busy to)

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    • Air travel was more fun because

      A) it was very uncommon for the average person. Only the rich regularly traveled by air, for everyone else it was a very infrequent thing, if ever. You can see this is the reduction of the number of first class seats in aircraft, as more and more people are unwilling to shell out the extra money for it.

      B) Fuel was cheap. Really cheap.

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      • Thank you. So I’m not nuts and imagining things. My parents retired around 2005 or so and they are all “It can’t be as bad as you say it is” and I chalked it up to “Well, they taught at a wealthier and more-selective school” but maybe it’s not just that.

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  5. [Mi9] I think it really depends on context and the specific issue.

    For instance, my mother’s family comes from coal country in WVA. Technically I should have sympathy for the down and out coal miners there. BUT after her grandfather died in a mine accident, her dad got the heck out. He worked his way through a 2 year degree and got a white collar job up the road in Pittsburgh.

    Similarly, I graduated from a HS in rural Ohio but instead of staying and lamenting the dying economy there, I worked for to get scholarships and on-campus jobs and got an engineering degree. I got out. And when it was clear the job in Detroit turned bad, I put a resume out and moved across to country to new city for a better one.

    So, my sympathy for people who sit there and grow bitter over losing a ‘way of life’ that isn’t coming back instead of putting the effort into finding new ways of life is pretty low.

    Otoh, I have immense sympathy for people who are bullied, no matter how they react. And for people facing discrimination and harassment precisely because I’ve been there. I see the same thing there on a broader level too. Our synagogue has reached out to the small local mosque because we understand how it feel to get threats and how much support from others in the community means.

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      • Yeah. Also, at least for me,[1] my sense of what is in people’s power to change is shaped by things that I have been able (or unable) to change.

        [1] And everything I know about people makes me think that this may be one of those instances where my reaction is typical.

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        • Exactly.

          To take ‘s example of bullying. I was able to change the bullying I experienced, but it wasn’t easy or quick and was dependent upon some factors that were not in my control, so I won’t fault another for not being able to pull off what I did.

          But a big part of my empathy rests in my own awareness of how lucky I got that certain outside elements came together at the right time. A lot of my success was equal parts hard work, and recognizing opportunities that presented themselves and acting upon them.

          Not everyone gets that lucky. So if I had a lack of sympathy, it would be for people who refused to do the work and refused to take advantage of opportunities that presented.

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  6. I owe Stillwater a response about some Hobbesian ideas on another thread I’m sure we can go about this without heat or fire here.

    ‘I don’t disagree, but the irony is that Trump is viewed by lots of folks quite correctly (me included to some extent) as an anti-Hobbesian force intent on dismantling the administrative state.’

    I have been working through this very thing. There are several possible positions there.

    1.) On the one hand, he has the possibility of being the wrench thrown in the gears that finally break and kill the leviathan.

    2.) He could be the ‘power political player’ that makes the leviathan ‘our leviathan’ for whoever ‘our’ is attributed to.

    3.) It looked like team blue was about to run the precious leviathan off a cliff, and we have to save the leviathan.

    So from person to person Trump can take on a different goal. From one angle he can be anti-Hobbesian, from another he can be full on Hobbesian. I think it is part of his power.

    All that said, I don’t personally see Trump as someone who can destroy the very thing that accumulates his wealth, so my bet is he is another leviathan, in the flesh.

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    • Trump only had two players near him that could have been serious about taking it apart. The first was Bannon, who appears to be side lined, the second was McMaster.

      McMaster was a mystery for awhile. If you were going to fight a decentralized war against the establishment, McMaster would have been the only strategic player on the board that could have operated a decentralized opposition without losing his mind to the abyss.

      As time has revealed, he appears to be a hunter of decentralized opposition. It makes him the most dangerous person someone from my camp would face, because he might have a clue with what to do in warfare where so many parameters are uncertain.

      Trump himself, is not a agent of serious decentralization. Nothing in his past, nothing in the present, nothing I can forsee in the future makes him capable of dismantling a state that serves him.

      The only way I see he could wreck it, would be on accident and not deliberate, which I guess is still possible, but not likely. If we get the right y-axis shift, that could take it all down, but I don’t see any signs of that yet.

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      • I would ask that you don’t, actually, use the space for these comments to keep talking about Trump. Folks may want to discuss the actual links in the piece, or other mental health related stuff, and this is a distraction.

        You and Still weren’t in a conversation about Hobbes that was heated, and I apologize for cutting off this part of the discussion (for now) because of other conversations that were unduly heated. I won’t delete or redact your comments for that reason. (Also, irrelevantly, I found them quite insightful.)

        There will be plenty of other, on-topic chances to talk about Trump in other comment sections I am 100 percent sure.

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    • General moderator note:

      In general, Linky Friday is more freeform but links in other linky posts that have virtually nothing to do with the topic should be withheld unless they are of supreme, shocking importance. And they especially shouldn’t be jokingly presented as if they have some relevance to the topic.

      (And before anyone freaks out that I’m changing the comment policy, “on-topic” has been in the comment policy for years. Yes, we stray, but jokes that seem to be on-topic and actually aren’t at all? Nope. Even if spousal.)

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