Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dear Salvador: Lesson #1 - A Disclaimer

Dear Salvador,

Your first lesson is going to be the most important: Do not trust me.

One of the more interesting polls I've heard about in my lifetime was done Americans asked to rate their own driving skill. Over 80% said they were above average.

The first reason I say this poll is interesting is because the majority of people think they are above average, which means that at least some of them have cogitated themselves into delusion. They think their way of doing things must be better. (Perhaps by sole virtue of being their own ability and irrelevant to driving skill.)

The second reason this is interesting is that even though 80% of the people thought they were above average, 100% of the people think that they know what average is.

This is how the human mind works, and it is not limited to thoughts on operating automobiles. It can, in fact, be applied to our thoughts on life in general and every aspect of it. Whether we think we're living above average, below average average, or even perfectly average, we all are certain as to what the ideal is.

Think about yourself for a moment. You try to do things as best you can (every person does) but even when you know you've done something wrong, you usually know what you should have done right, and you know how serious your offenses are. (Missing homework to play video games = bad. Missing homework to punch your mother in the neck = worse.)

Even if we feel we're not living well, we still have an idea of how to do it. This is where advice comes from. The reason you shouldn't trust it is because one person's ideal life is not necessarily better than the ideals of the 99.99% of people on this planet.

I want to make it unambiguously clear, then, that I don't want to tell you what to do or how to live your life. For one, it will make me look like a completely arrogant asshole (which might not be false, but it doesn't mean I'm trying to make myself look like it.) For two, if I tried to teach you or anybody else anything, it would probably have the opposite effect I sought. Nobody likes to be preached to, especially when they probably consider themselves to be a pretty good driver.

So why am I wasting your time and my time by giving "lessons"? The reasons actually have more to do with me than you.

One of my more idiosyncratic personality traits is the urge to think things through until their completion. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it is what it is. For instance, if someone mentions "Master Splinter", I have the uncontrollable desire to learn everything about him. Or the television show VR Troopers. I sat on the bus the other day and wondered why some animals were better domesticated than others. (Was the domestication process started for dogs and cats earlier than ferrets and rabbits? Are dogs and cats simply more genetically capable of living with humans?) So when I jokingly christened you as my "pupil" to initiate you to our circle of friends, my mind immediately went off on "what can I teach the young padawan?" One month later and my mind is still working on this wide topic. I can see that it won't go away, so I'm writing it down.

Which leads me to my second reason for doing this (besides my neurological damage,) I like writing, and I don't even think I care about what I write about. Some of the ideas I'll share would have probably found their way to the inner monologue of a fictional character I would have created, or an angry rant about politics, etc. etc.. The point is, for the moment, this will be the outlet for my thoughts. Until I get bored of it.

Which is not to say that you might not benefit from it. Even if you don't trust me, it doesn't mean I might not be right. To follow-up that claim, there are certainly some things about which I am most assuredly wrong. (My advice on women is highly suspect, for example. But consider these lessons as a part of the cataract of knowledge thrown in your face for your entire life. As with everything, you can choose to accept, reject or ignore it.

The third reason I'm doing this is because it helps out personally, as an exercise in self-awareness. I have to think about why and how I live the way I do (which is a beneficial practice for anyone) and then make my thoughts coherent enough to write them down and still make sense. After that, because this blog is public, have them held up to scrutiny (which I welcome whole-heartedly, by the way) by my closest friends and complete strangers looking for sonic porn.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is, don't trust me.

Master Splinter
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