Monday, November 30, 2009


Finally getting around to reading the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Saw him on Charlie Rose a while back and got enthused. This one is about the process of snap judgments. Implications about free will -- from a certain perspective we're just computers, controlled by the information that's fed into us. So subjects who are fed subliminal data are more polite, or ruder, depending. For a brief time, until our dominant programing reasserts itself. Sort of makes us puppets.

But no. Because free will isn't about what we do. It's about what we decide to do. It's more will, than free. The issue is far too vast to ever get a clear idea about it. Just general. That's good enough. Indeed, it's one of those snap decisions, in a way. Just as we don't have a choice about our heart rate -- or our heart beat -- it's all autonomic -- what we do affects it. And we do have control of rate, and beat. Same with decisions. Will, as opposed to choice or preference, is the stubbornness of the matter. It's the hammer, not the arm. Will, and what directs will, are two different things.

One of the points Gladwell makes is about habits of character. By analyzing very short snippets of conversations between married couples, we can get a 95% accurate prediction of the likelihood of divorce withing 15 years. For marriage to be strong, positives communications need to outnumber negative by five to one. Eye-rolling indicates contempt. Toxic. Unqualified agreement, "Yes, you're right," is golden. The point is that we make evaluations, entirely unconsciously, about the unconscious signals we're being sent. Sometimes it takes 15 years for the message to get through. I feel contempt for you. Or, I love you and want to support you.

We perceive subconscious communication as sweaty palms, depression, elation, a sudden memory -- any way that perception can occur. It's a matter of how good we get at noticing. A sort of oracle, reading meaning in entrails or scattered sticks. It's reading ourselves as if we were crystal balls. Because we are. Magic.

None of this is new. New studies, to shed light on old ideas. Positive thinking. Prayer. Ways of rewriting the unconscious script. Why do we have to be reminded of this, over and over. It's as if darkness were a conspiracy.

I'm going to take a month or two off from bjj. Scheduling issues, and a rest is a good thing. Those are real reasons. But not the only ones. Of course. Haven't you been paying attention?


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