Archive for October, 2017

Can I talk myself into not wanting great things I fear I’ll never have?

by David McElroy

It’s been almost 30 years since I figured out — much to my surprise — that what I really wanted more than anything else vocationally was to be an artist. And I’ve spent most of the years since then explaining to myself over and over why this isn’t possible.

After enough reasonable explanation, I start getting numb to what I want. I forget what it feels like. I turn my attention elsewhere and tell myself that realistic people do other things. Maybe I can make filmmaking a hobby if I do really well for awhile at something I hate.

Doesn’t that make sense? I can make a few hundred thousand dollars a year as a real estate broker. How about that? Isn’t that more realistic? Sure. Why not. I’ll do that. It all makes so much sense. And it sounds so responsible.

And so I start burying what I know — every now and then, at least — that I want. Until somebody comes along and pokes a stick at something I try hard not to look at.

That’s what happened today.

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Most important thing you’ll do for your child is selecting other parent

by David McElroy

When I read today that 68-year-old singer Billy Joel and his 36-year-old wife are expecting their second child, my first thought was, “Well, there’s hope for me yet.”

I’ve known since I was a teen-ager that I wanted children of my own, but the time and situation have never been right for me to have kids. Although I’m certainly not as old as Joel, I’ve reached the point at which the clock is ticking. I have to get started if I’m going to.

But as I think about this again, I’m reminded of my problem. If I just wanted to reproduce with someone, I would be able to find someone and get started quickly. My problem is that I know the kind of mother I want for my children — and that woman is very hard to find and even harder to woo and win.

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We’re all trapped in our own heads, fearful of other people’s judgment

by David McElroy

The most fundamental error that we all make is assuming we can understand what it feels like to be inside someone else’s mind and heart.

It’s not a conscious decision to believe this. It’s just a natural assumption we start with to one extent or another. But the more I’ve become aware of this error — first by observing myself and then by observing and re-interpreting others — the more aware I’ve become how pervasive it is.

What’s worse, I’ve realized that almost all of the manipulators in our lives use this assumption to control us.

Imagine you are locked alone in a bare cell with a locked door. You can’t see anyone else. You can’t hear anyone else. You have no idea where you are or why you’re there. You just know you’re alone.

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Why am I shocked that a friend’s happy news makes me feel envy?

by David McElroy

“Have you seen Julie?” Matt asked me. “She’s pregnant and she’s sitting back there.”

Julie is a casual friend who got married last year. I don’t know her that well and I rarely see her. I had just walked into a restaurant for dinner Friday evening and an employee told me the news.

My first reaction was to express happiness for Julie and her husband, but I suddenly realized I felt something unexpected. My inner emotional mask slipped slightly and I felt … what was this?

Envy.

Instead of pure happiness for Julie — who will be a great mother, by the way — I felt something ugly in my gut. My heart felt cold and hard. There was a powerful hint of anger — self-directed? — and then I realized it was hard to put labels on the things I was feeling.

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Tradeoffs about values leave me feeling like ‘double-minded man’

by David McElroy

I feel like a contradiction lately.

I want to withdraw from the modern world — from the intellectual, psychological and spiritual rot that’s leading humanity down an ugly path — but I don’t want to give up the conveniences that have come with that modern world.

I suspect the internal rot which I see around me inevitably comes right along with the technological marvels we’re building for ourselves — and it requires some kind of terrible tradeoff that I don’t want to make. I want to have the shiny technological toys with none of the downsides.

It’s hard to know where to strike a balance. On one side, there’s an Amish-like life of being grounded in the warmth of community and personal connection. It’s the ideal or fantasy of country life — of being rooted to land and a slower pace and more traditional values. On the other side is a post-modernist life of shallow connection with little meaning, but filled with technological progress and urban excitement — along with opportunities for success and wealth and ego gratification.

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Modern obsession with ‘hot girls’ teaches everybody to be shallow

by David McElroy

If your culture were selling you a lie, how would you know it? And if you assumed the lie were true — and you lived your life the way the lie told you to live — how would you know there was any other way to live?

Powerful forces in modern culture are eager to use the natural human desire for sex in order to sell us goods and services. If those forces — advertisers, entertainers and publishers, among others — can tie their products to your sexual desires and promise to satisfy those desires, they might sell you more of whatever they’re selling.

Sex sells. It sells movies, music, television shows, fashion, magazines, cosmetics, perfume, deodorant and toothpaste. Sex sells so many things today that we couldn’t possibly list them all. It’s treated as a shortcut to get your attention and make you believe you will get whatever you want from various partners — all in exchange for buying whatever some company wants you to buy.

This isn’t a puritan lament that sex is bad. This is an acknowledgment that our culture is making a mockery of something special — and it’s an assertion that this practice is seriously damaging our ability to make emotional connection with our partners.

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Instinctive desire to ‘do something’ almost always leads to bad policy

by David McElroy

When there’s unexpected tragedy in the world, I always know what to expect from myself. My first instinct is to call someone I love and say, “Are you OK? Are you safe?”

It’s a very instinctive and irrational desire to reach out to try to protect someone who couldn’t possibly have been threatened by a shooting in Las Vegas today. It’s just so instinctive that it takes time for my conscious rational brain to kick in and remind me, “The people you love aren’t in danger, so you can relax.”

The many centuries of human history seem to have wired us in this way. When there is a danger — to ourselves or others — the first thing we’re programmed to do is think of the people we love and to think about how to protect them.

When something terrible happens, who do you think of first? Who do you want to tell about news in your life? Who do you want to protect? Your complicated answers to those questions will tell you who you really love — because your instincts tell you the truth.

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Blind faith in our ability to reason
led to arrogance and false certainty

by David McElroy

For most of human history, men and women have developed their ideas of God through group experience and tradition — and they’ve then been willing to kill those who didn’t accept their notions of who and what God is.

Every group seems to have believed it was uniquely qualified to speak for God. Every group believed it knew the truth. Every group was willing to use force to impose its idea of God on everyone else. Every group was willing to kill those infidels who didn’t know their truth and worship their God.

Many modern rationalists like to laugh at those people — both the primitive early religious folks and the comparatively flexible and more rational modern religious groups. They like to look down their noses at religious people and say, “The world would be great if all of you stupid people would just worship my god — the god of reason.”

I’ve realized recently that rationality has been turned into just another false god.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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