Any misspelled words or grammatical errors on this site are provided only for effect. Views expressed here are strictly those of the author, as opposed to being from his pet iguana. We reserve the right to add new letters to the alphabet or alter the time-space continuum as we see fit. Your presence at this site is a complicit agreement to these conditions.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Wandering Through the Synapses

While I was standing in line at the grocery store, contemplating which stars on which covers were having the biggest crises in their lives, I figured I should try to think of something slightly more useful. My resources are worth more than what Jon and Kate are most recently up to. And all I had to do was turn around to find… chocolate. They’ve got the whole gamut covered in the checkout aisle, which is quite thoughtful of them. Oh, dang! I forgot to get toenail clippers. Not to worry. They have my interests at heart. Oh, and I was going to get a lint remover, but now I’m already in line and — hey, whadda ya know? And then now I’m realizing that all this shopping has made my eyes bloodshot. If only — oh, look! They put some eye drops right here for me. Boy, they know me like a pig knows slop.

And by the way, if there were a flowchart showing the progression of every system in life, you’d see on the diagram that it always falls back to chocolate as a last resort. If something fails, the safety net is chocolate. It was in fact given to us to help mask the reality that life isn’t a bowlful of chocolates.

So let’s say there’s a company that underperforms, doesn’t meet your expectations with its product, and otherwise leaves you disappointed. In the grand scheme of things, what are you going to do? You’ll probably stop giving them your business, although they’ll keep on doing the same thing to other people. And if they eventually go out of business, there will be other companies that do just as poorly as them. What will leaving them accomplish in the long run? Possibly some improvements overall, but it won’t exactly eradicate bad companies or products.

Let’s say one credit card company gives you really shoddy service. We’ll call them Citi. Instead of trying to correct a problem that you bring to their attention, they hit the word track express and try to sell you something in the process, pouring more salt on your wound. So you file in the deep recesses of your brain a sticky note associating Citi with bad. And then in your good section, you have good companies, like Jack in the Box or Malt-O-Meal. Have you ever noticed that Malt-O-Meal never offends anyone? Doesn’t make waves, just goes about its business making fine meals out of malted stuff.

Tangentially, I’m never quite sure what the implications are when two companies form a merger. It garners a great deal of news coverage, though I think of the process more as a meld, a gloop, a coagulation… a veritable transmogrification, if you will. Let’s suppose two big entities like Purina Dog Chow and Twitter combined forces, with Purina buying out Twitter. What does it change? It’s just money combining with money. And the result is still money. A rose by any other name is still just a merged rose.

Is the underlying assumption that if two supergiants of an industry were brought together like Microsoft and Google, they might somehow become too powerful and conquer the world? In the end, the names have changed but the players have stayed the same.

When Exxon merged with Mobil, what did it change? Logos, slogans, and window dressing. What’s going on behind the curtain is fairly constant. AOL/Time-Warner was a big merger. What happened because of it? Anyone, anyone? They got to use a different name. It’s all about name recognition. My bank went from Washington Mutual to Chase. They even told us for several months that Wamu was “becoming” Chase, as if a slow morphing was taking place. So the difference is that my checks will look different, my bank statements will be another color, the bank tellers (but not Penn) will wear different uniforms, all the while my money will still go green. They didn’t change the amount of my checking account balance. They didn’t even change the employees working at the local branch. What’s different is the upper management at JP Morgan, but I’ll never meet those people.

There might be an incidental percentage difference here or there, but they’re for the most part indistinguishable. If you have to squint that hard to find a difference in something, then it’s essentially the same. If you have to use surveying equipment to determine whether you’ve lined up a picture frame on the wall perfectly horizontal (or is it vertical?... we’ll leave that one for the aspiring philosophers who aren’t us today), if you have to go to that much trouble and can’t tell with the naked eye, then I’d say it’s probably close enough. If it takes some extra effort to find a defect in something, then the defect, for most intents and purposes, isn’t there.

Now take all this to a personal level. We all know people we care for more than others, and then people we care for less than others. Even if you’re philanthropic and nonjudgmental, there will be people you’ll recognize as carrying traits you would find unappealing. It’s part of life, and we have to make discernments at some level, otherwise it would be anarchy. Anyone who believes in anarchy cares less about people than those who believe in having rules do. See, I’m even forming a view against anarchists, in that I believe they are simply misguided and not necessarily nefarious. As for judging, it’s unavoidable if you want to be part of the loop of a living system. There’s no shame in making such judgments. Judging isn’t bad in itself, neither is discrimination, neither is belief, neither is faith. They can get stigmatized from time to time, which might tell us some things about our sociopolitical (a la sociopathic) climate.

In an effort to keep the thought more concise, we can reduce it to something as simple as ice cream flavors, thereby attempting to remove the emotional aspect. (Well, maybe that won’t work for some people. I did try though, and I figured ice cream would be interesting. For those of you emotionally attached to any flavors of ice cream, you’re already a lost cause, so this isn’t going to reach you anyway.)

So to keep a long story long, there are some flavors you like, and some you don’t. That’s pretty much a given. Which means it’s not really all that noteworthy to be saying that some are substandard in your view, because everyone’s going to have some on that list regardless. (I want to say everyone minus 2, but there isn’t a word for that. I got my license to mercilessly play with words and it doesn’t expire for a few more years.) That some are above water and some below isn’t surprising in the least. What would be surprising is if that weren’t the case.

Within the realm of two standard deviations, things will happen at a fairly consistent rate in most anything we encounter. And within that, there are going to be some positives and some negatives. You can’t escape that without partaking in some form of chemical inspiration, which is only a quick fix and brings you farther back than when you started, so point lost.

The salient point is that the faces of many of those positives and negatives are more mysterious than they are definitive, and probably shouldn’t use of a lot of our attention, because if you remove one bad apple, the reality is that there are still going to be further bad apples. Focusing so much on the personality of that bad apple is going to cause us to become too emotionally invested in the identities, but the individual identities don’t drive the negativity, they just carry it out piecemeal. And the good apples are sometimes fleeting or take turns being bad apples, so it gets truly cumbersome making any serious attempts to keep score. It would work better if we focused on the bigger picture and didn’t let personalities get in our way of our disappointed states.

This is not to say that grassroots activism is futile, but that you can easily get caught up in the grassrootsness of a principle and forget about the wider scope. I think this correlates with the idea of loving the sinner while hating the sin. Of course, sins don’t happen apart from sinners, but the pervasiveness of sin isn’t due to one sinner. If there were only one sinner, we probably wouldn’t be overly concerned about general sin. So then I’m wondering in the case of general sin, why blame one person for the sin conglomerate.

Societal trends are precipitated by a pack mentality, meaning the pack is needed to facilitate it. If we work on developing better interactivity, accountability, unity, compassion, et al, among groups of people, then we may be able to help each one of us rise above the baser tendencies. If, conversely, we all try to solve our problems on our own, then we’re often using the same mindset that engendered the problem in the first place. That lens is going to reflect the light in the same manner in both directions.

This stemmed from ideas about our own individual identities, how we might be able to tell them apart, and how much it matters who the various players are. I could describe it better in ways that would make sense to me, but I don’t like to write for myself in this type of forum. It would prove to be too eclectic, thus reducing my readership from 7 to 3. And I care dearly about those four of you.

This is an unfinished thought. But then aren’t they all? I could pretend to wrap it up in some poetic treatise that gives it a literary stamp of approval, though is that necessary? I could’ve brought more cohesiveness to the presentation, but then when a person is writing and he tries to change the flow, then it upsets the flow. A choppy production reflects a bunch of choppy thoughts, which if they’re genuine, certainly have their own place. And anyway, I have other hobbies besides this to try to solve the world’s problems on my own. Saving society is only #12 on my list of goals. I trust in the reader to fill in the blanks as it pertains to you. I could do more of the work for you and possibly coddle you until you felt comfortable enough to want to come back reading only for the sake of reading, but that’s not me. While I will throw you a bone, you still have to chase it and pick it up, because I’m going to give it a good chuck.

No comments:

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Philosophy Soccer