A couple months ago I watched the Wolf of Wall Street with some friends. As the credits began to roll, I started to consolidate my opinion on the move. Did I love it? Did I hate it? I could come up with decent rationale for either. Depending on the second my friends asked my opinion, I could have just as easily said that I liked it or disliked it.
The truth is that I had a neutral opinion on it. It had good points, it had bad points, and they mostly cancelled each other out. It wasn't a great use of time, but it wasn't a horrific waste, either. What was interesting, though, was that I felt compelled to have an extreme opinion of it. I figured that I must have loved it or hated it, and I tried to gauge which side of that I fell on.
If you watch TV, you'll notice that no one is ever neutral about everything. Either something is wonderful or terrible, righteous or evil, a tragedy or a triumph. I don't know if we're imitating TV or TV is imitating us, but it's not an accurate representation of how life is.
I've been making an effort to give myself the full spectrum when forming opinions of things, and of course I've noticed that I'm actually neutral on a lot of things. I don't love lifting weights, but I don't hate it, either. If I really pay attention to how I'm feeling, I'm basically neutral when I'm under the bar. I've also realized that there are some people I just don't have a strong opinion about. I'm not avoiding hanging out with them because I hate them, just because I'm neutral about them.
So how is this useful? Well, the closer we can get our mental model to the way life actually works, the better. This is true not only of how we percieve the outside world, but also how we percieve ourselves. How can we ever make fine-tuned adjustments to our behavior or surroundings if we pressure ourselves to love or hate everything?
Allowing ourselves this full range is a form of honesty. I enjoy going to the ballet, the opera, and the symphony. Whenever good deals on tickets would come up for any of these things, I would jump at buying tickets to them because "I love" all of them. I would feel compelled to buy the tickets even if the particular show didn't look amazing, as if to reinforce my belief that I really did love them all.
When I really thought about it, though, I realized that although I do love most orchestra concerts, I really didn't love most ballets I went to. In fact, I was probably slightly negative on the average ballet. That realization caused me to only buy tickets for shows that seemed particularly great, instead of buying into my own hype that I loved every single one, and inevitably leaving the show unimpressed.
The raw sensory data of life is presented to us accurately, but we color it and bend it by attaching meaning to things. Some degree of that is inevitable, but it's worthwhile to always try to question yourself and see things more accurately. Being willling to be neutral allows us to evaluate the full range of our opinions, which helps us make better decisions, and maybe even appreciate the things we do love even more.
Photo is a bunch of reeds... pretty neutral. I have no idea how I've been traveling so much yet still have almost no pictures.
Thanks for this ... I will guess that the reason you don't have more photos is that you store the memories of what you see in your mind. That is probably where all of your most treasured "snap shots" are! It takes time to stop and take a photo ... For me, I am more often caught up in the moment or the experience to stop and snap a photo.
Years ago I lost a ton of photos in a move. Photos of my children when they were small. It made me very sad. I have learned since then that my brain stores the beautiful memories I treasure and I don't always need a photo to keep that memory alive. Though I've found it is a bit more difficult to share those memories than it is to share a photo.
Love those sorts of creative challenges too!
"The raw sensory data of life is presented to us accurately, but we color it and bend it by attaching meaning to things."
Interesting post. I agree. I think a huge problem in our culture is that we are no permitted to be neutral on issues, and that we must have a strong feeling or opinion about everything, lest we be branded as someone who doesn't care. "Apathy is the worst of all," the culture says.
Emotion is the most abused "drug" of all, because everyone has them, just as they have opinions. Emotions can lead us to make terrible decisions. Collectively as a people and country, we make terrible decisions, such as going to war or lobby for harmful laws that curtail freedom because we are compelled to feel strongly one way or the other about an issue -- polarized by those we listen to.
Every small social and political issue is now framed in the framework of WAR, and we must choose sides and fight for or against something with those on our side, and against those on their side. That's why politics is so contentious these days. There are no neutral issues. Everything is black and white, good and evil, conservative and liberal -- with no shades of gray in between that allows the refrain from polarization and genuine objective analysis and decision making. Sometime good decisions involve not taking strong actions or using strong words and letting thing be, However, the tyranny of the polarized prevents us from doing so.
It seems to me it's you can't be an intellectual or emotional Switzerland without having those around treat you as a traitor to those who are now conditioned to fee stongly about everything in their lives.
The next step is to really only consume the things you really love. Once you're conscious about what you love and don't love, it's easy to only consume things you love. For example, my RSS feed is less than 15 sites (and I constantly have to tell myself to pare it down, do I really love this writer?), and my DVD collection is 10 movies I love to death. I watch each at least once a month, which justifies the cost/ownership of the item.
We live in a world of 24 news broadcasts that have to dramatize everything. The ratings are bigger if they can pit one side against another and have a cat fight. This forms everyone into thinking they have to choose sides, love or hate things, and be defensive of their choices.
The more I've inhabited different and sometimes ostensibly conflicting perspectives by seeking to understand, the more I feel that I don't have opinions about much of anything. Opinions (or views) seem to me to be beliefs, and the more I've seen my beliefs change over time, the more my meta-perspective becomes that it is most efficient to be open to anything and not hold onto anything as a hard belief. Instead of that, I have tried to cultivate a general sense of what may be "healthiest" for me or others, and tend to offer thoughts to others and operate from that perspective, while remaining open to other perspectives. In other words, non-dualism changes everything (and nothing). I don't consume much media because I don't feel that I can relate to the hard perspectives being taken by characters, either, similar to as you mentioned. And as a filmmaker/artist (transitioning to coding), this has left me wondering what I can really get behind artistically.
This is so true! I ask myself those questions while engaging in activities too.
I had a couple of major surgeries this summer, so fear kept me from enjoying skiing early in the season. At first I thought I was just "over" the sport. But once my doctors gave me the thumbs up to do any activity I wanted, I started skiing double blacks again and loved it.For me it's about the challenge and adventure. Take that away and I get bored.
I think this is a reminder to 1. Be slow to form opinions on things that aren't impactful in our lives and 2. Be open to changing those opinions.
It's an unfortunate consequence of appearing neutral that you may be mistaken for being apathetic
The reality is that you're being more empathetic and honest with yourself than anyone that forces out an opinion for the sake of having one.
I saw Wolf of wallstreet a few weeks ago as well, thought I'd like it more than I did; because I "know" Jordan
(have a Seminar of him on my pc) and from what he tells etc. I thought it'd be more interesting to learn "more".
But it was a couple of hours of ego-based behavior 'look at me! I've got more money than you! No, really! Let me prove it!".
That combined with lots of sex scenes, looking for drugs, argues with his first wife, first divorce, then new wife, argues with second wife and eventually second divorce (I think, wasn't paying that much attention anymore near the end).
I did like that at the end when they "show" that he started doing seminars and talks etc. that guy who introduces Jordan Belfort is the real Jordan Belfort. All of the sudden I heard his voice and it "woke" me up again because I heard a familiar voice. Liked that little touch.
My opinion of the movie was similar to yours "meh", wasn't great/good, wasn't bad either. But then again I've been doing my very best to not be able to say if something is this or that anymore. Because we need to compare this thing against the other things.
A while back someone asked "is it expensive?" (can't recall what we were talking about) and I replied "I don't know, compared to what?" and that's basically the thing I reply to a lot of things, because I can't know what someone defines as expansive, good, cheap, bad, good-looking, comfortable, ugly or whatever.
A million dollar can be a lot, compared to one single dollar, but compared to a couple of billion dollars it isn't that much anymore. Same goes for something that's heavy or not or warm or cold or windy or if it's raining a lot.
It kind of is a crappy response from my end, which I'm aware of, but I'm trying to get people to get out of their boxes and instead of saying "a million dollars is a lot" to just let "a million dollars" be "a million dollars". No more, no less.
This also reminds me of my attempts to not be annoyed by people who do dumb things or are obnoxious or inconsiderate. You know, people who make you go "why you little piece of s**t!". Anyway, I've been doing my best to think of people like that in terms of "it's their job, they can't help it". Like when someone cuts you off in traffic (not that that's really annoying to me), you can't really get angry at them because it's their job to do so. Which all of the sudden makes it "not so bad", maybe it was a bit of a bother for you because you had to brake a bit and be more alert.
But if it's someone's job, you can't be upset, they're "payed" to do so.
So when my girlfriend breaks something (again lol) I immediately go to "well, it's her job" and then instead of being angry, we just fix it or clean it up. No point in getting upset.
That makes almost every possible situation, good or bad (and again, compared to what?) even more bareable and people are more enjoyable to be around, even if they "screwed up".
In short, I liked your post Tynan, your sense of neutrality reminds me of what I'm trying to be more. Thanks for the read :)
instead of buying into my own hype
Caught myself doing this on a few occasions where I did or saw something just because I felt like I should, because it fit this "identity". I like your perspective on it though: "The raw sensory data of life is presented to us accurately, but we color it and bend it by attaching meaning to things."
Kind of like how the brain wants to see patterns that aren't there, we try to attach meaning that isn't always there.
About eight months ago, I had the idea that maybe I should be doing something to work on flexibility and posture, like yoga. I've taken yoga in the past and liked it, but never really loved it enough to stick with it. Maybe I'll try ballet, I thought.
A lot of members of my family and extended family have taken ballet, as have a disproportionately high percentage of girls I've dated. Through them I've been exposed to it in bits and pieces, and I always admired the discipline of it. Ballet is so exacting and precise that even after years of work it's still near impossible, but ballet dancers press on despite that. I always admired the tenacity it seemed to build.
I also like going to ballets, as long as they're not modern ballet. Between seeing all the good things that came out of others doing ballet and thinking it may help me appreciate watching ballet more, I figured I'd take one class and try it out. The fact that it was weird for a straight guy to take ballet probably factored in, as well.
I was pretty much hooked at my first class. In life I like the idea of working as hard as humanly possible but still trying to make it look good on the outside, and ballet was the dance form that reflected that. It felt great to wake up on Sunday morning, ride my motorcycle downtown, and then slip on ballet shoes, stretch out, and learn something difficult and physical.
My opinion: There is no such thing as 'who you are'.
It actually annoys me when I hear people say, "blah blah blah blah! That's just not who I am". Bull crap. We are capable of ANYTHING. How could we ever argue that? I actually think there is a mathematical argument that would prove this (maybe I'll pull that out some other time...) but seriously: I challenge you to name ANY act that you wouldn't do. I challenge you to tell me 'who you are'.
For some reason, we seem to need to be identified, especially to ourselves. Now this may be a paternalistic issue, not as prevalent in maternalistic cultures. However, at least for the former, we have a drive to know 'who we are' or 'what we're about'. "I'm all about the blah blah, you know? I'm totally blah blah blah and would never blah blah. That's just not who I am" Bollux, I say.
You would literally do ANYTHING you are physically capable of doing, provided the impetus was correct. So would I, of course. We are only a sum of potentials, constantly making the best decisions we can in the circumstances we are in. Let's not delude ourselves that we are incapable of anything that we are actually capable of doing. Let's not pretend that we exist on some etherial plane, above and beyond a horrible act. You are not a mass murderer simply because you've not done it- not because you wouldn't kill. One is not a thief for the same reason that one is a thief. Stealing, or not. Just because you believe that you wouldn't steal doesn't mean that you won't, or haven't. Just ask a criminal thief is he/she is a thief. They will immediately understand your question to mean 'do you think of yourself as a thief'. And they will, most of the time, answer in the negative. They don't 'feel' like a thief. But ask them if they have ever stolen and you'll get the opposite answer. And because it can never be absolute, the belief can never depict identity. It can only depict what I heard once called a Residual Self Image, a rendering of identity that is borne by your brain for the purpose of being able to picture and/or live with yourself.
I've had the displeasure of knowing some bad people in my time. I suppose I could be one of them. I don't know. I don't believe that i am, but there you go. Ask any one of them: Do you think you're a bad person? 99 out of 100 will say 'no'. And of course they believe that. How could they not? How could we exist with any hope of future if we have come to the conclusion that we are inherently not good. I'm sure there are folks out there reveling in their evilness... but seriously, I've either not met them or they are very well disguised. I mean for real: pick a President that you hate. Can you honestly say that you think even they believe they're a bad person? Even though they totally screwed up the country?