Black and White

Right, this has nothing to do with writing or promotion, except it does.

There are some people who split the world up into twos, and some who don’t.  Optimist/pessimist.  Atheist/believer.  Yes/no.  Democrat/Republican.  Things like that.

Me, I’ve come to look at those situations and go, “To what purpose?”

To what purpose do we split the world into optimists and pessimists?  In one sense, we do it in order to say one of those two values is better than the other–optimists are more healthy, pessimists are more honest with themselves–whatever values you like, really.

But in another sense, when we say, “The world is split up into optimists and pessimists,” we’re saying many other things, like, “Your attitude is generally the same on a daily basis,” and “Mood swings are for crazy people.”  It encapsulates our unease with dealing with unpredictable people.  It tells us that you have to pick one or the other–one might be better than the other, but clearly either one is better than not choosing sides.

Well, I’m a moody agnostic maybe independent, and I always will be.  I’m starting to think that it’s just a way of life.  Some people are going to be “yes” people, some people are going to be “no” people, and some people are permanent “maybe” people.

Nevertheless I find myself over and over coming across odd little constructions in my head.  For example:  I can see that binaries are a problem, but I have trouble actually thinking around them (as you can see in the yes/no/maybe paragraph above).

For example, eating well.  How do you eat well?  It turns out the real answer will probably be something like, “eat moderately in all things.”  But that’s not something we can wrap our heads around without being experts at it.  “But is bacon healthful?!?”  That’s really what we want to know:  give me a yes or no answer, damn it!

I know just enough about food to go, “Sometimes it is, although not usually the way Americans stereotypically eat it.”  Although a lot of paleo people would argue with me, paleo isn’t the way Americans stereotypically eat bacon.  I’m still on the fence about eating paleo to the extent that some people take it, but my body likes it–but then again, my body likes eating mostly vegetarian, too, as long as I don’t overdo the starch.  Really, for me, it’s not about the bacon.  It’s about the starch.  But on a daily basis, I say, “Is this handful of jellybeans healthful for me?  No?  That means I must EAT THEM ALL!!!”

“Tell me what to do, so I can either do it or feel like a failure!”  “Tell me what not to do, so I can not do it, or feel like a rebel!”  That binary thing, it’s a problem.  Because really what we need to do is get into the habit of observing.  “When I eat too much starch…”

Is it better to be an optimist or a pessimist?  Better to listen to your emotions and learn what needs they signal.  Atheist or believer?  Better to examine your own flaws and stop looking down at people.  Democrat or Republican?  Better to ask, “Who benefits?” on a case-by-case basis.

But I am who I am, and I distrust groups, even the ones I identify with.  So of course I would say those things.  Because once you “belong” to something, that things sets up shop in your head and takes up territory that would otherwise be you.  And that’s what bothers me.

I find it easier to think about if you add the phrase “strongly identified as a” in front of all the terms I’m going to use here. And it’s easier to see when you look across the other side of the fence. Examples.

When you are strongly identified as an atheist, that takes up territory.  When you have a conversation with that kind of atheist, stupid Christians and smart atheists is where the conversation tends to go.  Strongly-identified Christians flit around the Bible like moths, burning bridges with everyone who isn’t like them, because with them, it’s all about the Good Book (or at least the particular interpretation they put on it), and if you don’t know the Good Book, then you don’t count (unless you can be won over).

To put it even more bluntly, people who are crazy about a rival sports team/gender/politics/brand/religion/diet/country are always nutty, aren’t they?  Gosh!

But it’s not the sports team/gender/politics/brand/religion/diet/country–it’s the person, and their investment in the idea, and the extent to which they’ve let that idea take over their lives.  The Mickey Mouse-themed bathroom.  Rioting over a sports victory/loss.  Being unable to form a coherent argument because it’s perfectly obvious who’s right and it’s unthinkable that there could be another reasonable perspective.

Here’s my stand:  Ugh.  Get those things out of your head.  People are more important than ideas.  Stories are more important than polemics.  Flaws are more important than perfection.

Black and white is for people who are easily led by the nose–or for people who are interested in leading you around by same.  If you can switch white for black or vice versa and end up with something that sounds nuts–then it’s probably nuts either way ’round, and you’re acting like a machine thinking someone else’s thoughts.

Okay, here’s the thing.  I really do think those things.  I really do have days when I get on Facebook and go, “You realize you’re not thinking your own thoughts, don’t you?  That you’ve been crowdsourced, brainwashed, infected, etc.?”  Here’s what I’m looking at now:

  • People who like pot are better than other people.
  • People who read books are better than other people.
  • People who preserve heritage seeds are better than other people (this is a whole foodie/environmentalist thing).
  • Dogs are better than other people.
  • Cats are better than other people (different poster).
  • People who can trick other people are better than those stupid idiots who can be fooled!  If you can be fooled you deserve it!
  • MLK is better than other people.
  • People who like pot are better than other people.
  • A picture of a sunrise.
  • Judgmental people suck, said the judgmental person.
  • A picture of two friends.
  • A picture of giant chickens.  (This is still marketing, by the way–from Weird Tales.)
  • Women are better than other people.
  • I am better than other people because of my musical tastes, and LOL when programs try to tell me otherwise (note to Spotify–please add “likelihood of snobbery” to your algos, thanks).
  • A medical pun.
  • A combination of two geek/retro items makes a SUPER GEEK RETRO ITEM!  Because geeks are better than other people.
  • Read my book because it will make you better than other people.
  • My climate is better than your climate.
  • Another nice picture.
  • Breakfast.
  • Pictures of hot guys.  (This might be in the “women are better than other people” sense, but I’m not sure.)
  • Geeks are better than other people (but with a nice picture).
  • Update on someone’s health.
  • Read my book because it will make you better than other people.
  • Geeks are better than other people.
  • Picure of family.
  • White people are not better than other people–love, a white person.
  • I have fan mail!
  • This brand is better than other brands.

The ones in italics are the ones that didn’t strike me at first glance as thinking someone else’s thoughts.  Ironically, it’s the stuff that people make fun of:  family fotos, what you had for breakfast…maybe I’m blind, and what those things are really saying is that “here is what you should think of as normal/attractive/beautiful,” or some such.  We so very rarely think our own thoughts.

Scrolling back through my own posts on FB, I have a better record than average for (I think!?!) thinking my own thoughts, but I still think that reading books makes you better than other people, and that geeks are better than other people.  Also I’m a food snob.  Siiiigh.  All kinds of other people’s thoughts in my head.

Like I said, I do think these things, and try to live them by dismantling other people’s thoughts in my head when I find them–but now that I’m thinking about marketing as an aspect of writing–

Are other people’s thoughts part of my marketing?

That is, am I selling a point of view, instead of actual stories?

So these are things that I think about.  Guh.


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