Saturday, July 13, 2019

You Are Absolutely Right!

People don't want to hear the truth. This is what they want to hear:
You are absolutely right!
It's so engrained that just reading those words likely lifted your mood by like 1%.
You are absolutely right!
It's like a massage, no?
You are absolutely right!
Would anyone be foolish enough to bet against my prediction that this posting will be extremely well-read just because of its title?
You are absolutely right!
I've worked 56 years to eagerly suss out my wrongness. I feast on my wrongness. And in the process - almost as a side effect - I appear to be getting righter and righter, though I scarcely notice, because I feel perennially wrong. The wrongness is what I'm focused on. Having witnessed how spectacularly stupid I can be, I can't - and never will - accept myself as anything but. And this, in turn, leaves me disinclined to tell people that...
You are absolutely right!
....even though that is (literally) how one Wins Friends and Influences People.
You are absolutely right!
I used to figure people just feared bad news. That's why they hate to be surprised; to have their viewpoint challenged; to unfreeze their perspective and embrace other possibilities.

But that's not it. They're just as opposed to good news. If you tell them their lifelong negativity has been unnecessary, and that all their problems have been self-indulgently concocted, and it can all get much much better right in this moment, all they'll hear is "You're wrong!" And that's not what they want to hear. What they want to hear is:
You are absolutely right!
As I've often noted, people would much rather feel smart than be smart (the two are incompatible; this is the basis for the Dunning–Kruger effect). But that doesn't go far enough. People would rather feel smart and be miserable than be happy.

It traces, in part, back to the original sin of an offhanded decision we all make in childhood re: how happy we'll allow ourselves to be. We work tenaciously to maintain our chosen equilibrium; to avoid over-happiness.

Have you ever wondered why literally no one ever links to this Slog, even though it's read by a couple hundred successful and outspoken people? Sometimes a "like" but never a "share"? Well, here you have it. This undertaking is devoted to counterintuitive insight - to showing you you're wrong, while (desperately) hoping to inspire you with the good news. 

A writer can either flatter readers or else surprise - and possibly inspire - them, but not both. Writers who flatter do so for their own elevation. Writers who surprise do so to elevate their readers...and must never expect recognition, because they've declined to utter the magic words. #YAAR


Anonymous coward said...

I keep thinking about Snape from Harry Potter catching Potter when he was happy. That happiness means letting your guard down and allowing bad events to occur. I'm not sure if there is any merit to this.

James Leff said...

It dates back to the Jewish Torah (or maybe it’s just informal/folkloric, I’m not sure): the idea that you must never declare happiness lest you get cosmic comeuppance.

What a ghastly notion, which has created vast unpleasantness for countless centuries. Ugh.

PZ said...

"It dates back to the Jewish Torah..." I'd be grateful for the reference here, or at least a clue about what aspect of the Jewish Torah you're thinking about.

Jim Leff said...

Woops, I accidentally deleted a troll comment I'd meant to approve...

"And yet the impression I often receive is that you have a strong conviction in your own correctness."

That's the ultimate paradox of this blog.


No, that's not it. I only post my highest confidence conclusions, and confidence is high only because of herculean pains (often years-long) I take to expunge my wrongness. My innumerable stupidities and vacuous brain farts do not make it into this Slog. So there's nothing paradoxical about it. This filtered approach appears to have created a result worthy enough to have drawn your obsessive attention for years. I guess it's working.

The paradox is that you (and one other anon) have been reading me day after day, year after year, responding only with snark and harassment (because it jangles your low self esteem that you pay more attention to me than I do to you) framing me as a deluded fool....whose thoughts you dote upon and gobble up like chocolates. The Troll's Paradox!

Your intensely faithful long-term attention (even my loved ones don't come close) proves that nobody loves you like a hater does:

Further reading:

Unknown said...

This response beautifully illustrates my point, though to be fair your focus is generally on your correctness, not on your humility.

None of this has anything to do with the quality of your writing and the clarity of your thoughts, only the quality of the tone and manner in which you deliver this sort of faux humility.

I enjoy your wroting and will always be grateful to you for having brought Chowhound into existence.

Jim Leff said...

I've never claimed humility. Quite the contrary, I've often described modesty as ridiculous and even vain:

I do, however, claim stupidity, density, thickness, slowness, and wrongness. I'm sorry if you deem this a false claim but those who know me well can confirm. This Slog is a magic trick where I seem very smart via a ridiculously, titanically painstaking task of stupidity-elimination (and sticking to topics I've spent decades pondering). The other trick here is that I appear highly articulate even though I have aphasia and must strain for words. I just take maybe 25 minutes thinking of the right word, and, because I'm slow and shitty and stuck, the result's extra rich and careful. Does that really make me articulate? No, it's an illusion. Am I falsely modest for admitting it? I don't see why. I'm just telling the truth.

Readers who don't know me well, if they have a shred of kindness, often say "Oh, no, Jim; you're not stupid at all!", to which I reply by explaining about my filtration trick. The more unkind response is to accuse me of humble bragging about my fantastic humility. To that I offer the same response.

Is this helping you grok what I'm saying?

Finally: I don't take credit. I know what I am: a shit-filled, haggard-looking, bag of meat driven by fear and anxiety and cravings. And I also know what I've produced: great stuff that I myself would love to read. But I know for a fact that doing great stuff doesn't make you great. I once wrote:

Life consists of a series of revisitations to tired cliches, certain with each new pass that we now really understand them. And so it is with Edison's "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration." That quotation used to conjure up images of wild-eyed fanatics banging hammers in garages in the middle of the night. But it's just a matter of normal people blithely but indefatigably putting out. The Colorado River, etcher of the Grand Canyon, is just some shitty little river. The best among us are shitty little rivers. To me, that's what Edison was saying.

I'm proud to be a shitty little river. That's quite enough for me (lucky for me, since that's about all I get for my efforts!).

Jim Leff said...

PS - I won't engage with you (or the other anon) further on this. I'm way less interested in me than you are. Yes, I use introspection as a tool, and I recount my own experience in an effort to shed light, but there's nothing I enjoy less than accounting for myself in the comments section of a vehicle which itself self-accounts to the very best of my abilities.

If it delights you to try to poke your finger into my supposed weak spots, go right ahead, but if you'll read more closely you'll find that I've already started the process for you, so you'd be way more effectively hurtful by using the conveniently provided pre-drilled holes.


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