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The Destiny I’m Not Fulfilling

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Department Of Podcast Feeds I’m Deleting

 

 

I post frequently about the podcasts moiself  listens to (and this entire post, unintentionally, is devoted to that).  Recently I did a trial listen to a new (to moiself) pocast, titled,  Tell Me.

TM is hosted by actor/producer Ellen Pompeo, best known for her seventeen year stint as Dr. Meredith Grey on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy.  I can’t remember how I heard of TM – most likely via an ad on a podcast moiself  already listens to – so I checked out the show’s website:

” …Ellen Pompeo sits down with a wide range of guests and celebrity friends who inspire her and who do extraordinary things. Through in-depth, candid conversations, Ellen shines a light on people and issues that are important to her and the world at large….
Ellen is also an outspoken activist for issues including equal pay for women in Hollywood and beyond, social justice, voting rights, and women’s rights.”

Hmmm. I’ve had the ass-tearing-with-boredom experience of trying out podcasts, supposedly highly-rated, which feature “celebrities” (read: comedians and actors) who seem genial enough and are good at their profession, and then the podcast consists of them talking with their friends…and the conversations between them and their fellow, A- and B-list celebs don’t hold my attention for long. It’s like being on the bus listening to Joe Schmo and Kathy Whoa sharing their in-crowd jokes, etc., only these Joes and Kathys have famous names…but you still don’t know them personally.  Despite how funny/talented they are on stage, they start with the seemingly obligatory Celebrity-Host-to-Celebrity-Guest podcast Intro ®, which is a session of mutual ass-kissing (“I love your work!” “And I love *your* work…!”)…and then…who really cares?

 

 

However, when I read about Pompeo’s activism I assumed that would be a prominent feature of her podcast, so I gave it a try.

In the past week I listened to three of her interviews…or tried to.  I couldn’t make it all the way through: in at least two of them, Pompeo and/or her guests brought up their “signs,” as in astrology, and chatted about their respective and supposed zodiac attributes (along the lines of, “Ah yes, as a Scorpio…” ).

 

 

I…just…cannot….

She’s off my feed now.  I’m still a Grey’s Anatomy fan, but I simply cannot take Pompeo seriously as a podcast host of “… issues that are important to…the world at large.”

“It turns out that astrologers can’t even agree among themselves what a given horoscope means. In careful tests they’re unable to predict the character and future of people they know nothing about except the time and place of birth.
Also, how could it possibly work? How could the rising of Mars at the moment of my birth affect me then or now? I was born in a closed room. Light from Mars couldn’t get in. The only influence of Mars which could affect me was its gravity. But the gravitational influence of the obstetrician was much larger than the gravitational influence or Mars.
Mars is a lot more massive but the obstetrician was a lot closer.”
( Carl Sagan )

 

 

In the year 2022, the idea that some people would give even a modicum of legitimacy to the medieval hokum that is astrology….

And yes, I realize a lot of people throw around astrology references in a casual, “fun” way and probably don’t take it seriously (or even understand what they are alluding to).  However, facts matters – or at least, they should.  Look around the world, read y’alls selves some history, and see what happens when people do not understand and misrepresent reality.

Again, I know, some folks play with the astrology thing for fun, but in the name of all that is rational, please, when someone asks, “What’s your sign?” the only polite response you should give should be:

 

 

If the sign-seeker is balks, kindly yet firmly refer them to The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark .   [1]   This glorious book, described by the LA Times as “a manifesto for clear thinking,” is an entertaining, accessible, thought-provoking read, in which Carl Sagan and co-author/science communicator/producer Ann Druyan

* describe the scientific method to laypeople;

* illuminate critical and skeptical thinking;

* teach readers how to employ skeptical thinking and rigorous questioning, and other methods to equip ourselves with a “baloney taction kit” to help distinguish between valid science and pseudoscience.

Enjoy this brief history (and debunking) of astrology by the late great astronomer and cosmologist, Carl Sagan.   [2]

 

“Dr. Yang, you will be taking over all of Dr. Grey’s surgeries until she stops refusing to operate on a Libra during the full moon.”

*   *   *

Department Of Destiny, Schmestiny

And one more thing. 

 

In two of the three podcast episodes I listened to, Pompeo’s guests were people she knew personally (former Grey’s actors), and she brought up with them a concept which was obviously authentic and important to her, but which (along with the astrology) also strayed into woo-woo/squishy territory:  destiny.

It’s hard to describe what she was trying to describe – in part because she was more enthusiastic than articulate about it, and in part because the subject itself is so subjective.  To do it justice would require me relistening to those interviews (and I have no desire to do so) .  Pompeo is not the first person to hold and express such sentiments, which go, basically, like this:

* Certain people come into your life, and you into theirs, because the two of you separately yet somehow reciprocally give off this kind of aura which attracts them; thus, you were “destined” to meet because of these mutualities  [3]….

Pompeo brought this up with her former co-star Patrick Dempsey, and as part of the proof that they were fated to meet and work together and be friends, she told him that they used to live down the street from each other, before they knew each other.

 

 

So, two actors, in an area (LA) where you can’t spit without hitting an actor or would-be actor – two people working in the same field, living near one another, ending up working together and ended up getting along with and liking each other, and therefore, it’s destiny?

Destiny; fate?  How about good fortune, brought about by coincidence?  Star-crossed lovers and even besties-for-life have a prominent place in literature and the arts, which loves the meet-cute and “meant-to-be” scenarios.  But in our non-fictional lives, when we step back and look at the facts and statistics, what we might consider destiny is in fact more accurately framed as a result of proximity or geography.

 

“My darling, geography hath conspired to bring us….nah.  Dialog coach, hello ?!”

 

The vast majority of people become friends with and partner up with people who live near them and are from the same or similar educational, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.   I have friends with whom I share deep intellectual and emotional connections and/or have profound commonalities of interests and perspectives, but we didn’t meet because we were destined to.  We met because we were in proximity; because, due to school or work or socia/neighborhood and/or or other activities, we encountered each other, and our relationships gradually grew from there.

My friend CC is a wonderful person and playmate and confidante, and I’m grateful for and have been enriched by her friendship.  But I do not think in the slightest that these things mean that we were destined to become friends.  If I were living in Hillsboro and she in Hanoi, or somewhere else across the globe, it is highly unlikely that the tides of fate/destiny would have brought us together.

 

In other words, destiny is not destined.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Advice Of The Week

“I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier
if they did less, better.”

This provocative quote is from a podcast I’m *not* deleting – a podcast where I doubt I’ll ever hear anyone cite astrology. I’m referring to PIMA (People I Mostly Admire), and the advice comes from PIMA‘s recent episode, “Turning Work Into Play,” which features psychologist, author, and academic, Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert (described on the podcast as someone who went “…from high school dropout to Harvard professor”) brings an intriguing perspective to concepts of being “lazy,” and how to bring about joy, as illustrated by this excerpt from the podcast, where Gilbert is being interviewed by PIMA host Steve Levitt.  Levitt, like many academics, has had to teach as part of his university contract.  Levitt also, like many academics, prefers research to teaching.   [4]   Thus, Levitt has been intimidated by and/or found teaching to be a chore, and so he asked Gilbert how he seemingly excels at it (my emphases):

GILBERT:
“I would say that the reason I put so much time and effort into my teaching is because I’m lazy. And lazy people don’t like to work. Somewhere very early on in life, right around the time I dropped out of high school, I think, I decided I never want to work again. All I want to do is play. And what I discovered is that to the extent that you put your whole self into almost any task — even if it’s washing the dishes — it stops being work and it starts becoming play.

I wonder if I can wash the dishes by holding them in my right hand and scrubbing with my left hand. Is it faster if I do it that way? Is there an interesting way to stack them so that they dry faster rather than slower? Anything that you are creative and playful with is a joy…..putting your entire self into things turns it into joy.”

 

“Doing the dishes them with my left hand brings me almost as much joy as doubling up on my Prozac.”

 

LEVITT:
“So, you were the first person I’ve ever heard say so succinctly this idea that a 100% focus is associated with joy, no matter what the task. It’s implicit in a lot of, like, Eastern philosophies of enlightenment…. I think you’re probably right. And yet in my own life, I don’t do very much of that…. How did you figure this out?”

GILBERT:
“I probably have a talent you don’t. Which is, I can say ‘No.’ I can say, ‘No’ very easily. I say, ‘No,’ to almost everything. My guess is you say, ‘No,’ a lot, but you say, ‘Yes,’ too much. And as a result, you have seven different things you’d like to put yourself fully into, but you can only put one-seventh of yourself in, because you said, ‘Yes,’ to all of them.
So, early on, when I decided I want everything I do to be a joy, I realized I would only be able to do very few things. So, I just say, ‘No,’ to just about everything. And ‘Yes,’ to just enough that I can constantly be putting my whole self into the teaching or into an article. I mean, I’ve published a quarter of the articles most of my colleagues at my stage of career have published. Because I write very few articles. Because I’m not going to write one that isn’t just as beautifully written and as smart as I can possibly be at that moment. Because that brings me joy. And I’m lazy. I like joy.”

LEVITT:
“I always ask my guests when they come on to give advice. I think I just heard you give advice — which is maybe the single most important thing anyone can do is to learn how to say, ‘No,’ and to say, ‘No,’ much more often.”

 

 

GILBERT:
….I do suspect that many, many people would be much happier if they did less, better. Publish fewer papers and make them better papers. For God’s sake, publish one paper and make it a great paper. Not only will you be happier, but the world will be happier without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish. Reading this one that you put your heart and soul into, and everybody can tell you did because it’s just such a pleasure. Don’t you think the world would be better with fewer books that were better books? Fewer X that are better X? I’m not sure what you could substitute for X that wouldn’t be true.”

LEVITT:
“I think that’s right. And I have gotten better at saying, ‘No,’ but as you described my life — seven things that I do, each of them pretty poorly…. And it’s probably four too many. And I’ve yet to figure out how to get from seven down to three.”

GILBERT:
“…I know you can go from seven to three very easily. My guess is that when somebody says, ‘Steve, I’ve got this idea for a project.’ You go, ‘Wow, that would be really fun.’ And this is what we call ‘affective forecasting.’ You’re imagining how great it will be to do the project. And we know from a lifetime of research that there’s a whole bunch of things you’re not imagining. Particularly how it will impinge on all the other things you already said, ‘Yes,’ to.”

*   *   *

Department Of My To-Do List: One More Item To Check Off

Dateline: Sunday am, listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 97: Are Women Really Less Happy Than Men?, which is about the supposed gender gap in happiness.

Midway through the podcast, psychologist and NSQ cohost Angela Duckworth   [5] read a teaser —  a quote from an article in The Guardian — that to be happier, women should “…give up on being good.”   [6]

Another entry on moiself’s  To-do list:  Give up on being good.

Check!

Happier!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Happiness Edition

Why are horses so happy?
Because they live in a stable environment.

Why can’t tennis players ever find happiness?
Because love means nothing to them.

I’m so happy with my financial savvy – my credit card company calls me every day to tell me that my balance is outstanding!

What is the best blood type for happiness?
B positive.

 

*   *   *

May you make the world happier “…without all the crappy papers you didn’t publish;”
May you say “no” more often so that you can joyfully say, “yes;”
May you equip yourself with a baloney detection kit;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And read it yourself, even if you consider yourself a good hokum detector and/or already know why astrology is bunk.

[2] And enjoy, as well as the facts Sagan presents, his distinctive speech patterns and intonations.

[3] Damn right, that’s a word.  Now…here…at least.

[4] Some of us may remember how disappointed we were in college, when we had such professors.

[5] Psychology professor and author of the book, Grit.  That’s why you recognize her name.

[6] This calls for another footnote.

The Binary Thoughts I’m Not Thinking

2 Comments

 

Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit

“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “

( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,”
The National Post, 9-23-21 )

 

With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past

Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…

 

 

…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):

Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours,
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]     ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108   [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

҉       ҉      ҉


That was then; this is now.  On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home.  How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know?  Moiself  has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat.  At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.

 

 

This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count.  It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime.    [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?

Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds.  There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage.  Leaving the house, moiself  noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.

I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine).  Moiself,  however, found it a fun coincidence.

The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit]  and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space.  This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”,  made me smile from the moment I heard the title.

 

 

Angela Duckworth:
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”

Stephen Dubner:
“Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…

AD:
“It’s a massive data compression.”

SD:
“Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress.  On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking.  I just want more categories than two….

(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)

Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.    [4]   The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.

 

 

An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.”  I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”

 

One “The Others” variant

 

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them.  There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen.  In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.

 

Yep; happens all the time.

 

For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration.  A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression.  No human is illegal – what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that?  Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?”  Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country.  So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?

Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself  ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.

Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics.  “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”

Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.

Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…

 

 

…I recognize that moiself  has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.   [5]   I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.   [6]    I have presented my take on the matter:  people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose.  This is part of living in a pluralistic society.  But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass:  you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t. 

*   *   *

Department Of What I’m Listening To…
(Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)

This would be Lindsey Buckingham’s new, self-titled album.

I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly part was watching the show right before bedtime.  The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.

The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time.  Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single. 

♫  Waitin’ for the night to come
Waitin’ for the moon to rise
Wondering just what have I done
That I never realized

Time is rolling down the road
Love goes riding in a hearse
We were young and now we’re old
Who can tell me which is worse  ♫

Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound   [7]  was due to his influence and contributions.

I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

♫  I’m outta pity/I’m outta time
Another city/ another crime
I’m…
on the wrong side… ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Q & A Punz For The Day
Popular Music Edition

Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music.
Mt. Rushmore.

What kind of music do bunnies like?
Hip Hop.

Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal?
He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.

How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven?
Apparently, all of them.

 

Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.

 

*   *   *

May you eschew most forms of binary thinking;  [8]

May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;

May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion;    [9]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.  And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.

[3] A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.

[4] Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”

[5] As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.

[6] Yet.

[7] In that particular configuration during 1975 – 1987, when he and Stevie Nicks joined.  There have been many, many personnel configurations in the band’s fifty-plus year history.

[8] Except when it comes to black licorice: you either hate it (correct!) or love it (so very, very, wrong).

[9] Like, the one about black licorice.