I Didn't Say That #2
It can help us push back against tyranny. Philosopher Hannah Arendt’s legendary cocktail parties were proof.
True amor mundi [love of the world] recognizes that our problems will never be fixed, that there is no perfect theory or principle that will unlock the puzzle of existence and solve our problems. And, Arendt writes, that’s why politics exists. In politics, we come together, committed to the world, willing to raise our eyes and look at one another, to debate and critically discuss the world, continually working our way toward what we would like it to become, knowing the work will never be “finished.” Doing so requires us to see one another as individuals with equal dignity but very different ways of being. Our idiosyncrasies make us who we are, and those unique traits and eccentricities empower us to care for one another. We see how someone is different from us, and we choose to love that difference, thus expanding our love beyond ourselves.
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
The crisis mindset is a finite resource — and we’ve exhausted it. From Covid to climate change, we need a new way to manage chronic problems.
Consider alarmism in the climate debate. Presenting climate change in catastrophic terms has allowed activists to discredit anyone who doubts worst-case climate scenarios as “denialists.” While crusading against denialism might seem like a strategy for achieving a consensus about the problem’s seriousness, it often ends up undermining the very conditions that make public deliberation possible. As Matthew Nisbet has argued, the “denialist” label is a way of “controlling who has the authority to speak on the subject.” When expressions of personal alarm become a litmus test for who has a reasonable understanding of the problem, alarmists naturally have sole authority. The effect, as Nisbet writes, is a “culture where protecting one’s own identity, group, and preferred storyline takes priority over constructive consideration of knowledge and evidence.”
Catastrophism has failed us because it has turned our attention away from the broad arsenal of tools available for averting catastrophe. When historians look back at the Covid pandemic, the story they tell must be of a failure to learn and evolve. Governments acted as if they could not think outside of catastrophism, which focused too much attention on what people believed rather than on finding solutions that worked for everyone. Officials stuck to an approach that asked much of the public and little from themselves.
Taylor Dotson, The New Atlantis
In this line from his famous poem 'Little Gidding,' T.S. Eliot wasn't writing about the Ohio of 2022. But he could have been.
Virtually the only thing Americans know about the parts of the country where they don’t live is the non-stop crisis narrative of national media, they naturally think the country’s problems are even worse than they are. In the parts of life they experience directly, people can see the goods and bads in perspective, and recognize not just possibilities for progress but encouraging practical steps. It’s hard to realize that all across the country, people who are never in the news are innovating and progressing in similar ways.
James Fallows, Breaking the News
Participants spent 47 percent of their day daydreaming instead of working on the task they were supposed to be carrying out. When the test subjects indicated that they were thinking of something other than their intended task, they were asked whether they were thinking happy, neutral, or unpleasant thoughts. When the study was published in Science magazine, the headline, surprisingly enough, was, “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind.” The participants indicated that they were significantly unhappier when they were daydreaming than when they were performing a certain activity.
Stefan Van der Stigchel, The MIT Press Reader
The research, published Wednesday in the JAMA Psychiatry and conducted by scientists at New York University, found that those given psilocybin-assisted therapy reduced heavy drinking by 83%, compared with a 51% reduction among those who received antihistamine placebo. Heavy drinking was defined as days with four or more drinks for women, or five or more drinks for men.
Eight months after the first psilocybin dose, close to half (48%) of those who had psilocybin stopped drinking altogether, twice as many as the 24% in the placebo group. The trial was double-blinded and relatively large for a psychedelics study, with 93 participants.
Olivia Goldhill, STAT
The two experiences alter a person’s core beliefs in a comparable way and scientists want to understand why.
“Almost 90 percent of both groups reported decreased fear of death following the experiences,” Griffiths says. “Both groups rated the experience very high for personal meaning and spiritual significance, and both groups reported persistent positive changes in personal well-being, life satisfaction, life purpose, and life meaning.”
Katie MacBride, Inverse
If we are living in a particularly important century, the probability that we're in a simulation increases.
This month, Effective Ideas are offering mini prizes for blogs that discuss Holden Karnofsky's series on The Most Important Century — a set of blogposts that make a sober, clear-headed case that we live in an extraordinary era that will define the trajectory of human civilisation more than any other. Outlandish claims that have significant implications, such as those that Karnfosky discusses, are often dismissed simply because they are esoteric — but some ought to be taken seriously.
“The Great Dictator is the consummate example of reducing the oppressor with humor,” he says, referring to Chaplin’s classic 1940 film. Comedians will try new and contemporary ways of delivering the same point, he adds, “but there are things that are unchanging and universal.”
Howard LaFranchi. The Christian Science Monitor
A quick comment: Not unrelated to the previous link, being a human is funny, sad, ridiculous, brutal, beautiful, and probably three or four other things. Sometimes this all gets captured and pushed together like a high-energy wad of Play-Doh. And sometimes that happens in a conversation. This is one of those, in my opinion. I laughed, cried, laugh-cried, and even cry-laughed. If you watch it and do none of those things, you might want to see someone about that. But probably not a comedian. Because you already saw three of the best. —Brian
Your Mom’s House Podcast