Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Sunday, August 08, 2004

On stating the obvious

In Psycho-babble, there is a neat little folksy saying that states a concept so obvious, it is sad that it ever has to be said. What is even sadder is that it is so obvious, that it comes as a shock to people when they hear it! That saying is, "In order to get an elephant out of your house, you first have to admit that there is an elephant in the house." Variations on this saying are "the 800-lb. gorilla in the room", or "the first step to solving a problem is admitting there IS a problem". Obvious, all. Painfully obvious. Yet, when someone trots out these phrases, the listeners almost universally nod their heads sagely, and mutter to themselves, as if these were the greatest revelations ever to be uttered. Poppycock. All they are is over-used sayings to state what the listeners should already know. Yet, we, as humans, like to ignore the obvious, and sometimes even actively avoid it. Why?

I believe one of the reasons we ignore the obvious is because the obvious answers to many of our questions are rather painful. If we acknowledged the obvious, we would have to do something about the obvious. Because, to use our first saying, once you admit there is an elephant in the house, NOW you have to figure out a way to get the elephant to leave. Much easier to just walk around the elephant. It's not really getting in the way all that much, is it? It may be a problem we can cope with, but it will cause problems in the long run. Why not just spend the effort to just deal with the problem now, rather than jump through all the hoops to ignore the problem until (we hope!) it goes away?

I like to deal with the obvious. I have found that dealing with ONLY the obvious sets me apart from many of my peers, and from my fellow citizens. Now, I am aware that dealing only in the obvious can lead to animal-like behavior, such as "me horny now, me find woman/man/animal/anything handy to satisfy urge". But that is not dealing with the obvious, that is dealing with the "now". The obvious is a little longer term than "now". "Now" thinking only deals with the immediate events, obvious thinking deals with patterns, and likely obvious outcomes of actions. To use the "me horny" example, the "now" thinking says "Horny? Take care of it." Obvious thinking says "Horny? What about children? Are you ready for them? Do you even WANT them? Do you want this person to call you in a week? Are either of you married? Are either of you married to EACH OTHER? Are you willing to get caught? Are both of you clean of STDs? How do you know? Will your birth-contol fail?" and so on. All obvious questions that need to be asked, yet very few people are encouraged to ask them in our society. Most, if not all, "now" thinkers will tell me that I am being too paranoid. I am not. I am dealing in the obvious. The obvious solution to the "horny" question is "Don't have sex with someone other than your spouse, and be a little picky about whom you marry." That obvious solution GREATLY reduces the risks of unwanted pregnancies, STD's, divorce, and infidelity, just by applying obvious solutions to obvious problems. I try and apply those obvious solutions to all of life's little problems.

Now, I don't just apply the obvious solution to matters of conscience, or politics. As anyone who actually knows me can attest, I am what some of them call "the Master of the Obvious". I state the obvious solutions to the obvious questions, based on the obvious data at hand. Sometimes, this leads me to state something SO obvious, even I have to say "Why the Hell did I say that?". But, most of the time, my friends and family look at me like I've just grown a second head, or have just admitted that I would like to know sheep, in a Biblical sense. Because I have just pointed out something so obvious, they would have rather ignored it. If someone I know has just said one of the stupidest things I have ever heard, they will, very, VERY quickly hear the words "That is the one of the stupidest thing I have ever heard!". And then I will tell them WHY that was one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. All because it was obvious. If a friend of mine is about to do something stupid, I will tell them "You are about to do something stupid", and then explain to them why it is stupid. Now, don't get me wrong. Many times, someone I know sees something that is obvious to THEM, and I don't see it. So, I will be wrong in my assessment of obviousness. But, if they see something I don't, and I try to correct them, we both win, because I have advised them on something obvious they may have not seen, and I learn something obvious that may not have been obvious to me before. Other times, my statements of obvious ramifications falls on deaf ears, because the person KNEW what the obvious ramifications were, and decided to either ignore them, or deal with them. In the first instance, they usually come back to me and tell me I was right (like I need any more ego-boosting), and in the second instance, I get to go to them and say "Well, you were right, and I was wrong. It worked. But I wouldn't have done it." I actually don't like the first instance, because I don't like to see people make avoidable mistakes. I have a love-hate relationship with the second instance, because I don't like admitting that I was wrong, but I will try and learn from being wrong, which I do like.

What brought this "I love me" post on? Having to deal with my mother this weekend. You see, my mother and I haven't initiated contact with each other in almost a year, and we live about five miles from each other. I made a decision to be polite to her when I see her, but to not actively seek her company. This stems from a conflict in "now" thinking on her part, and obvious thinking on my part. You see, I am a conservative. My mother views me as a stereotypical conservative, because she is a stereotypical liberal. This wouldn't be so bad, except she cannot deal with my obvious nature. If she spouts off about the latest liberal myth about conservatives, I will automatically, without thought, completely on reflex, attempt to correct her ignorance. This is not a good situation. Because she is a "now" thinker, any statement contradicting her is bad, because she has just been called "wrong". No one likes to be told they are wrong, present company included, so she launches into a defense of why she is not wrong. Using wrong information and assumptions. When THOSE are proved to be wrong, she then launches into attacks on the person who had the NERVE to say she was wrong. (elapsed time: ~5 minutes) Now, to any one looking for the obvious, being attacked personally is taken as a, well, a personal attack. Even if it is one's mother. So, the obvious thinker says "I'll come back when he/she/it is more rational", causing ANOTHER round of personal attacks, because the obvious thinker has DARED to insinuate that the "now" thinker isn't rational! Where the obvious thinker now says "Wow. Do I want to wait that long for them to become rational?!" Which leads to yet ANOTHER round of personal attacks, after which the obvious thinker says "Okay. This is a lost cause. I'll just go hit the bar. At least there, I can be insulted, but have a beer while I'm doing so". Which then gets the "now" thinker to say "What? What did I do? Why are you mad at me?" Repeat conversation for about 8 years, and one gets the picture. And this all started from a person who would rather BE wrong than be TOLD they were wrong. That "elephant in the house" again.

One day, many beers years ago, I decided that I was tired of always being wrong. I couldn't figure out why it was so easy to prove me wrong, and why I always had to concede the arguement to the other person, even though I KNEW I was right, all evidence to the contrary. So, I started to learn about the things I liked to talk about (which is darn near everything, the "fine arts" excluded), and found out that all those people who were telling me I was wrong were actually RIGHT! So, I decided that I was no longer going to be wrong, and start accepting the fact that I would have to unlearn a lot of things if I was going to be right. The obvious solution to that problem was trying to live a new personal mantra. "I would rather be told I was wrong, than be wrong". Fast forward to today, and I am now what is rather nicely called a "know-it-all". It is nigh unto impossible to prove me wrong these days, for one little reason: I don't open my mouth unless I know what I am talking about. If I don't know what I am talking about, I will only open my trap to ask questions, or to pose ideas that might help clarify the situation for me. Because of this, I don't have many friends, and my family tends to only tolerate my presence (although they do still love me, and miss me when I'm not there. I'm not a Goth, for cripe's sake!), because they don't know how to deal with me.

All because I decided I didn't want to walk around that elephant anymore, and I was tired of elephant shit all over the carpet.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country