Insensitive or disingenuous?

I read a lot of personal essays from people in their late teens. The theme of hurting people’s feelings versus being honest preoccupies many of them.

It’s all the more fascinating for me because I’ve experienced two cultures that have opposing views on this.

I’ve often seen Irish people choose to err on the side of sugarcoating reality and lying by omission in the name of being kind. Around here, you will be forgiven for being misleadingly delicate, but not for being insensitive.

On the flip side, the brutes from the old country would soon forgive someone for not considering someone’s feelings given that it is in the name of integrity. I’ve heard a lot of Russians retrospectively end friendships while accusing the perpetrator of “how could you not let me know that”… <my ass looked too big in that>, <our mutual friend didn’t invite me to the party>, etc. The “it’s not my business” defence doesn’t cut it for them.

Looking at it from a skin in the game perspective, you make a much bigger gamble when you risk offending someone by being straight with them.

At the same time, people often get carried away with their opinions to the point of forgetting that it is, after all, just an opinion, not “the truth”, and so communicating it may not really be that beneficial for someone else. Realising the insignificance of our humble opinions may be key here. Not sure you can do that to facts that your friend would prefer to know.

Question.

Assumptions: you know each other very well and solicit your friend’s opinions.

Who would you rather as your best friend? The insensitive swine who won’t hide their thoughts or the kindly sweetheart that weasels around the truth to avoid hurting you?

No Frankensteins. You have to choose.

It’s that simple

A 60 year old woman told me today that she lost 10 kg (22 pounds) in the space of one month, without starving herself, etc. Her bloods even look better. Of course, she has a lot to lose (say 30-40 kg), but I just think it’s so amazing when people do actually do it.

I asked her what was the main cause she could identify – giving her a few a few options, such as changing what she eats, exercise, a life event?

And she said, “not overeating”.

And simple truth miscalled simplicity, indeed.

A little bit of Irish politics

What is the purpose of having four political parties if for the last couple of constitutional referendums they all virtually agreed with each other on how people should vote?

I don’t necessarily disagree with them, but there seems to be a resounding group-thinking lack of pluralism.

P.S. Are you painting yourself green for Paddy’s Day?

Falling in love with girls

Sometimes I come across a piece of writing that hits me like a cupid’s arrow.

Here is an apt description of how girls feel about other girls sometimes, something I couldn’t articulate myself:

“We instantly wanted to be each other”, she wrote. By the time we met, we were both young women, both married, both acquired the same name through marriage – Barker. And she wore a gorgeous golden pencil pendant. Little did she know, a lawyer then, that she would become a poet. She would say “heinous” every five minutes or so – I was smitten.

This female fascination is so strong that even now, at the age of 33, I sometimes turn into a 5-year-old and space out. We went to a party in New York late last year and I couldn’t even mutter a “hello” to this woman, whose creative career I’ve been following for years. I couldn’t even look in her direction, she was so gorgeous. So I ended up in my safe space – talking to a bunch of men about literature and linguistics while they filled and re-filled my glass and tried touching my hand and occasionally my waist and told me I was “lovely”. I wasn’t: I was muttering away cliches at them, giggling at whatever they had to say without listening because I was eavesdropping on what she was saying from across the room.

Source: Anna F. More here: Of the everyday (image taken via Of the everyday)

Path dependence, Chekhov and control

Blogging resides on the boundary between personal and literary for most people.

I just read a heart-wrenching piece, and it’s impossible to comment on it because it is so personal, but for me, it is also impossible to walk past it without reflecting on it given how sorrowful it is.

Anton Chekhov said something that resonated with me:

“If I had left my family and handed them over to the mercy of fate, I would try to find an excuse in my mother’s inadequacy, in my TB, and so on. This is natural and excusable. This is just human nature.” (my translation)

I think the original blog piece is more about gender, but my point is more about sovereignty, a kind of independence from the past.

We are all functions of what we were yesterday, no doubt about it. My argument isn’t about outcomes, it’s about motives.

Our motives cannot be subverted and limited by what happened to us in the past. This doesn’t mean that we have unlearn what we learnt, but rather find the strength to learn even more about that little bit of space in this world where we do have some control.

Don’t ask why?…

A reader kindly sent me this article.

I don’t agree with its analysis, but it has some interesting points about using what vs why can have a significantly different effect.

During my stint in psychiatry, I learnt perhaps the most helpful question: what makes you say that? Notably, not a why question even though it asks about the same thing.

I also remember a brilliant psychiatrist giving a patient advice. The patient had a personality disorder and started reading about them to understand why she has it. He told her that at that point reading that could make it worse – and that interventions such as mindfulness and therapy were superior.

As for my disagreement. The article suggests introspective people are unhappy. It assumes and, with a very simple experiment, shows that asking why causes people to be sad. I think that introspective people aren’t sad because they are introspective, but sad and poorly self-aware people turn to introspection. And Negative Capability is still a thing.

“In today’s innovative world…”

The teenagers whose essays I read think we live in a phenomenally innovative time. Smartphones. Computers. The internet.

Yes, this all happened in the last 50 years.

In the 50 years before that we landed on the moon, split the atom, came up with the bomb, made cars and film widely available and saved countless lives with penicillin.