Becoming Really Good at Useless Things

I am becoming more and more convinced that I am wasting my life. I was looking back at my comment history on Disqus and for some reason, I find myself enjoying what I write. Not everything I write survives the test of time, but often comments do. They are pithy, to the point, and usually well-reasoned. However, as much as these do correct error or add to the body of knowledge on a particular forum, I don’t think they are actually successful. I don’t think they succeed in actually motivating people to change their minds or correct their behaviors. I think people simply reject being called out and reject information that contradicts their biases. So while leaving these comments satisfies my need to express truth, what good is it if it is not actually working? I have become really good at doing something useless.

I never have been someone really interested in getting into page-long back-and-forths. I did that initially, but I gave that up to just dropping by and giving my input. I’m not real sure that going back to the back-and-forth will be helpful. I think the only way to do this is to be online who I am in person, to align the two halves, and by this I mean to be respectful and kind to people with whom I disagree online. I have done that before, to try to understand where they come from, but honestly I lose patience because I see the same foolishness repeated over and over again, a kind of lazy acceptance of whatever is around, instead of an active and curious pursuit of truth. You know the type — the kind that declaim people using the Bible as an authority while they regurgitate everything CNN poops out. It’s annoying, frustrating, and in the end, I gave up when I have done it. Now I remember. I have tried that before. I never could tell that what I did made any difference at all. It was like talking to brick walls all day. If I was going to do that, I might as well cut to the chase, leave after speaking, and block with abandon.

Still, there has to be a better way to do this — to become effective at communication online, and not just be a master orator in empty stadiums.

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The Gifts I Have

This is something that I rarely discuss with others, and then only with people I really trust, because I do not indiscriminately reveal personal things. I can talk with anyone and I love talking about deep things, but when it comes to giving knowledge of myself, that’s past another row of defenses. Still, anonymity makes us all brave, and so here is something of myself — my extrasensory gifts.

I have the gift of knowing when something I am going to experience something bad, a forewarning of doom. I know it is coming and often I know what it is, before I experience it. For instance, I missed a class in college. I knew that walking to the class from my apartment the next time class, that something bad was going to happen. I had missed something, I knew not what. No-one had talked to me. No-one had contacted me. I read nothing of this, but I felt the doom like I had been pierced from within and like my lungs were expanding beyond my rib cage. As it turns out, there was an assignment given in the last class that I did not do because I did not know about it, and it was a big one. Most recently, I knew that there was blowback from an email I had sent at work. This gift manifests every few months or so.

I also can know when something bad has happened to someone close to me. This requires emotional connection, and the emotions vary, from a scratchy animated confusion to overwhelming grief — I feel that someone else is afflicted, without any sort of communication needed. This has happened between my wife and I myself several times.

The rarest gift I have is that I know what other people are thinking about me. When they get close to me (and it always is related to proximity), I can feel what they feel about me, and only rarely, hear the exact words. This gift has manifested itself five times or so.

What do I do with these gifts? They are mostly informative, and function as a kind of super-radar, a kind of super-awareness. When I experience them, I almost always pray — either for the person afflicting me, for strength for myself, or for comfort, for the person afflicted. They draw me into God and into His presence.

Some people may exult in having some kind of insight into the spiritual world. To me, it’s occasionally unsettling, but it’s usually fairly ordinary. I do appreciate the fact that God gives me time to prepare for things, and gives me extra knowledge, but often I wish that I did not have this insight into other people’s thoughts or actions. I am already a sensitive person, and sometimes this extra knowledge is simply too much emotionally for me to handle. I have often wished to be more ignorant, not more gifted. I suspect that those who have greater gifts can feel the same way: they can do what others cannot, but at a price. To be able to handle and use these gifts, they must do unusual things, like athletes, and thus they are always seen as strange and are usually outcasts.

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Theocratic Fascists, Attack! [Satire]

The United States Inquisitor General, head of the Department of Religious Tolerance (DORT), today uncovered another secret cache of theocratic fascists, located in Temple Hill, Arizona, late Thursday night. They were found huddled together around “some old books in Latin” said a sub-inquisitor to local press. “We had to use electric cattle prods to force them to disperse,” said another. “The weirdest thing,” he continued, “was that they had no technology whatsoever. I don’t know how they communicated with other members of their organization,” he said. “I can’t figure it out.” The group insisted that they were playing old-school role-playing games, but the government agents knew better. “We knew by their untidy appearance and lack of fashion sense that clearly they were engaged in wrongthink.” The DORT estimates that up to 25% of Americans are theocratic fascists, according to a study released in 2018. Of note, it notes that the requirement for classification as a theocratic fascist is a firm belief in the limited power of government and the forbidding of any national church.

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Have you ever noticed that some people collect other people? Collectors seem to thrive and grow with all the people they can describe or name or somehow know their personalities. They are free-roaming ions that naturally attract and adhere to others. I innately shy away from such people, even fear them, because I do not want to be collected. I do not want to be part of your psychic inventory. I do not want to part of your social horde. I want to be known individually, and in a small group, at worst. I do not want to live as adjectives on your tongue. I do not want to have a recycled, second-hand life in the conversations of others. I don’t want to exist in the back of your mind.

Maybe this is all part of the extrovert-driven world, where people reach inside your mind and squeeze their fingers together, seeing what parts of you they can touch and manipulate, and then comparing their findings to others. I resist that; I block that. A life in the deep and in the quiet is something to treasure. Save me from your noisy and shallow groups, and deliver me from your festivals, noise for the sake of noise.

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Maybe People Are Born Stupid, Too

Lately, I have heard that a certain presidential candidate thinks that he was born gay. However, why stop there? Why is it only same-sex attraction that we are born with? Why not other behaviors and traits? For instance, I think that some people are born stupid, and therefore no matter what you do, they will always be stupid. This, if true, should send shockwaves through the education establishment. “Why, consider it, Mable Intersectional,” said Jones Albright, a biological male identifying as a cactus, “The Stupidity hypothesis completely destroys the idea that everyone can benefit from education. Some people never will!” Why don’t schools test for IQ and simply refuse to admit stupid people? Why shouldn’t police academies not hire stupid people? Why don’t we all begin the long and necessary list of jobs that stupid people cannot have? Or wait, imagine the insane pushback. Stupid people marching through the streets with misspelled signs, demanding their equal rites. Or perhaps hordes of stupid demonstrators massing around a revolving door unable to figure out how it works, who then end up missing the protest because they can’t get in the building. That would be horrible, wouldn’t it? Maybe that’s why we haven’t addressed the elephant in the room and singled out stupid people. If they wanted to, they could unite and in a few days, cripple the American economy just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Think of all the unnecessary deaths that could be caused by too many stupid people being in one place at a time, all the accidents, all the weird surgeries doctors would have to perform. Do not poke this sleeping giant, politicos. We have enough problems on our hands. No need to actually get real and discuss the obvious and make obvious decisions. Instead, we’ll continue as we are, slowly being poisoned to death by the stupidity all around us.

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Does Popularity Really Entice People?

I’m always surprised when someone brags about an anime`, a film, a band, a movie, or anything really, by appealing to its popularity. Whenever I hear this, I mentally shrug my shoulders. Saying something is popular creates no impetus on my part — none whatsoever. Popularity does not describe the value of the object in question, the ability of the band, the taste of the food, or anything else. It seems to me to be utterly mindless. The pitch is like a crazed carnival barker: “Try this because other people like it!” Weirdly, these other people are never named. They are the anonymous horde. I just don’t see why a gaggle of people I don’t know should persuade me to do anything. What would motivate people to like something just because others do? Is the fear of missing out? Is it the fear of being excluded, of not looking hip or cool? That stuff didn’t work in high school and it works even less now, which is why I’m still surprised it’s being used.

I have realized something, though. The people who make these claims are saying a lot about themselves. They feel justified. They feel good, because they like something that is popular. They belong. Finally, they are attempting to shame others by implying that others will not be cool unless they get on board. Understood aright, this kind of thinking is even more shallow than I expected. I’m truly sorry that people think that way, because it reflects a nervous, insecure mental prison wherein the prisoner constantly evaluating the worth of something strictly by how many other people like it, and then judges if others don’t like it, then that thing cannot be any good. This is the collision of insecurity and extroversion in a constantly changing, pond-skimming analysis that in the end, attempts to establish happiness and security by simply being part of whatever crowd is the largest. It sacrifices individuality and will on the altar of fear, hoping in the last, that joining the anonymous horde will make one belong and be happy and safe. It is a nirvana here on earth with all of cessation of individuality and will that such promises, and to have that, is like to live in a drug-coma even while awake. It is the perpetual haven of the coward.

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The Conspiracy of Silence

When most companies conduct team reviews, they obtain awkward praises instead of actionable feedback. Why? The conspiracy of silence.

People who do mediocre work are afraid of criticism because they know they have done mediocre work. To be exposed is a living death, so they coast by on being nice to others, hoping that others will be nice and not jeopardize the relationship when these reviews are held. However, the flip side is that those who produce excellent work cannot make suggestions or call a spade a spade, because by doing so they have violated the conspiracy of silence. To do so is to be “mean”, and that means it’s open season upon them. The mediocre hordes rise up to drag them down the instant a single flaw is found in what they do. The boss then evaluates the situation and determines that the high performer is the cause of the problem and punishes him or her. I have experienced this and now I hold my tongue and do not suggest even minor changes, politely. I have joined the conspiracy of silence.

People who produce mediocre work usually do not accept any sort of criticism, no matter how accurate, because they are thin-skinned and paranoid about their work. It is usually obvious to everyone who contributes dreck and who contributes gold, but this conspiracy arises first because the boss prioritizes something besides work quality, usually camaraderie. Why this is used to cover up bad quality work and bad employees I have no idea, but it distracts the higher ups probably because they fall under the same charm as the quality-producing employees. They don’t want to seem mean and so they let the happy but mediocre club continue motoring along to nowhere.

Another part of this is a misunderstanding what sort of feedback is helpful and what is just opinion. Merely contributing opinions or downing something is not helpful. However, because ground rules are not often put in place, social anxiety can result when people feel like they have to defend against such feedback. So instead of setting ground rules, the boss opens the floor, nobody knows what to do, and awkward exercises in mutual appreciation or silence results. Real feedback doesn’t happen.

All of this sickens me. These meetings/reviews are artificial constructs that exist to cover up something shameful. They continue as long as quality is not the objective and every company and department that coasts along those rails is heading for a canyon with a bridge out. The question that always hangs in the air: will the bad employees retire before they sink the company?

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