Department Of The Optimism I Wish I Held
“His recent book Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, could hardly be more timely.
And it has a fascinating twist, seeking links between how individuals deal with crises – with insights from his clinical psychologist wife – to how nations succeed or fail when confronted with a crisis.”
That blurb is from the description of “How It Can All Fall Apart,” a recent episode of Alan Alda’s Clear and Vivid podcast. Professor, historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning popular science author Jared Diamond (“Guns, Germs and Steel“) was Alda’s guest.
As with many podcast guests, Diamond had a new work to promote (the above-mentioned book, which just may join the ever-expanding pile of *read-this-and-you’ll-be-a-better-or-at-least-smarter-person* tomes by my nightstand). What I found most captivating about the interviews Diamond has been giving is the cautious optimism he expresses about what positive awakening may arise from the COVID-19 crisis:
…if there is a solution found, a majority of people may finally realize that *global problems require global solutions,* which could result in the setting aside of political differences and working together to find solutions to problems from which no artificial barriers of borders or international politics can shield us (read: Global Warming/Climate Change.
I wish I could believe Diamond is right. The USA should, of course, be a leader in this and other issues. Instead, it may take our country many months – how long until the election? – to be able to fully get on board in this matter. Chief Little Bunker-Bitch  I mean, that festering gallstone of a human being – okay; remember, we’re going for the spirit of cooperation – our pathetic excuse of a leader… I’m sorry, world, but the truth is….
Ok. How shall moiself put this? If you know even a smidgen of #45’s personal, business and political history, you also know that the one comment any teacher would *not* write in the report card of his life is, “Plays well with others.”
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Department Of Since You’ve Asked
“What is your diagnosis of the greatest problem facing humanity?”
All-righty then, to rephrase:
“What would you say is humanity’s biggest mistake, or weakness?”
Humanity’s *blunder grande* is our misplaced faith in certitude, vis-à-vis both our factual knowledge and our sense of ethics. 
Giving the probabilistic nature of our world (including our very existence as a species), strength and resilience lies in people who are able to see and act on the grays in life, instead of labeling everything either black or white.
Fly your gray banner; keep open to the possibility that you may be wrong, but don’t let this entangle you in the morass of uncertainty that some use as an excuse for inaction (“Since we can’t know for certain then we can’t know at all”).
Wow. That’s a lot of profundity for one keyboard to spew. I need a beer.
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Department Of Terms Worth Picking A Few Nits Over
I’ve written in the past (and given our current “cancel culture”  and the unfortunate, seemingly liberal-led trend of looking under every verbal rock for aggrievements, I will likely have cause to write again) of my disdain for people who criticize/judge/assume they know the opinions of other people who don’t use the “proper” or “accepted” terms in discussing social issues.
Moiself deplores the censoring of ideas and the alienating of allies which results from when you focus on *how* someone says something, versus paying attention to *what* they are trying to say (i.e., confusing style with substance). But, language is tricky. None of us can accurately claim to be an expert of verbal and written communications, which are the conduit between our forming ideas and our expression of them.
The choices we make matter, as do our words, which both express and influence our ideas and worldviews. I try to view each case separately recently, I’ve learned of a couple of centuries-old terms which moiself thinks are very much worth changing, for the important reason of the terms’ subtexts.
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery. In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):
“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”
I think this change in terminology is adoption-worthy and will henceforth try to consistently to use those words. If someone comments on it (“I’ve noticed you say, ‘enslaved person’ and ‘enslaver’ instead of ‘slave,’ and ‘slaveowner’ “), then there is an opportunity for dialogue.
However, I will not turn into a member of the Speech Police, and hope that other Well-Meaning People ® act accordingly. Joe Dude who seems open to the idea of reparations for enslaved persons is a potential ally; don’t turn him off if he starts to say, “I realize there is validity in reparations for descendants of slaves…” by jumping in with a correction, no matter how well-meaning: “Whoa, Joe – the proper term is, ‘enslaved persons….’ “
In these Twitter Mob Times ® it so easy to criticize *how* someone is expressing an idea that we often neglect to listen to *what* they are trying to say. When it comes to style vs. substance, go for substance. Every Time.
* * *
Department Of The Things We Leave Behind For Others
One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students:
“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”
….we posed Feynman’s cataclysm question to some of our favorite writers, artists, historians, futurists – all kinds of great thinkers. We asked them, “What’s the one sentence you would want to pass on to the next generation that would contain the most information in the fewest words?”
(Radiolab, The Cataclysm Sentence,)
I thought about that question for several weeks after hearing that podcast.The answers given, by Feynman and others, could be rephrased as, What would you leave behind for others? My cataclysm sentence, which needs some serious editing, would have something to do with embracing embrace curiosity; try to understand reality and do not be satisfied with stories that purport to assuage your fears about what you don’t know….
One day during one of my early morning walks, I put those What would you leave behind for others? thoughts on hold, and have yet to return to them. I was crossing a residential street, mulling those profound thoughts, and I noticed two brown plops, and a brownish line of…ick…stretching from the center of the street to the gutter, and then up on the sidewalk, for a total plop-streak of about 20 feet. Moiself realized it was a series of feces droppings, from a doggie which was evidently on the move.
Not wanting to fall into the trap I just wrote about – making up stories for that what you don’t understand – moiself nevertheless used my powers of deductive reasoning to come up with the most likely scenario: dogs, when they’re on their own or are being led by a human on a walk or run, stop to squat when they defecate. Why was this dog in such a hurry that it could not do so? It was either being chased by something…or being pulled by someone. I realized that the speedy early morning jogger I’d passed earlier, on that very street, her leashed dog trotting a good ten feet behind her, was the likely source.
And it made me wonder about how many of the countless dog-accompanied joggers and cyclists I’ve seen consider themselves to be responsible owners and the kind of people who always pick up after their dog… Except, when you’re moving at those speeds, essentially forcing your dog to run with you, it has to “go” on the run,  and since it is trailing behind you, you don’t see what is happening…. And you run or cycle merrily along, blissfully ignorant of the shit trail you have left behind, for others to deal with.
* * *
Whaddya think, is there some kind of life metaphor in all that crap?
* * *
Pun For The Day
You shouldn’t fart in an Apple store; they don’t have Windows.
* * *
Department Of Just One More And Then I’ll Stop, I Promise
My dad burst into my room and said, “Wanna hear a joke?”
He proceeded to fart for a whole minute, then said,
“Sorry; that was a long-winded story.”
Okay; make that, just two more.
After letting out a trumpet of a fart the toddler stopped, gasped,
looked up at her mother and said, “Did you just hear that elephant?”
She’s going to be a great dad someday.
* * *
May you be mindful of what you leave behind;
May you recognize and celebrate life’s gray areas; 
May you have the optimism to believe that a world which produces fart-dad joke combos
can come up with a cure for a pandemic ;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 For those of us who love our country and thus cannot bear to use the given name of the man who shits all over it, this is one of the milder monikers we use.
 Aka, “right” and “wrong.”
 As per dictionary.com, cancel culture refers to “…the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”
 I have seen more than one dog, running alongside its jogging/cycling owner, stop to squat and then get jerked/dragged along by its leash, while its owner kept on going.
 Except for those involving dreadful novels with “shades of” in the title.
Emily Herlands Sandersfeld
Jul 31, 2020 @ 08:51:46
Go ahead and read Guns, Germs, and Steel. It’s a winner.
Jul 31, 2020 @ 08:53:36
I have, and it is!
And is the Emily Herlands with whom I had the honor of being at SAHS with?