Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Process

I've managed to tie together a few loose strands of thought and reduced them to something more succinct. One simple sentence, in fact.

There is risk to synopsis, however. Over-compress and the point might diminish into seeming-banality. Even the most transformational insight can be pounded thin into dry cliché. It’s just a question of how much juice you’re willing to drain in the interest of brevity.

Ideally, readers will rehydrate it via their own rumination. Aphorisms are the ancient version of compressing data for efficient storage and transfer. Processing power applied on the receiving end restores the intended nuance and vitality. So consider giving the opening sentence more than a nano-second of attention, despite its seeming easy banality!


If you get (really) good results, don't question your process.


Parables:
Oscillococcinum

Homeopathy is a crock. There's no evidence for its (ridiculous) underlying "theory", and there have been no proper scientific trials, to my knowledge, of any homeopathic drugs. It's a scam and a fraud. But Oscillococcinum, the popular homeopathic flu remedy, works for me.

It's effectiveness is just as likely due to some little girl in Utica having prayed for it to be so, or the pills containing alien entities, or the letters of Oscillococcinum adding up to "Jehovah", as the homeopathic explanation. "Insert nonsense here." I don't care. It works, and that's enough for me. If you get (really) good results, I don't question your process.

Note: good results don't prove the validity of the process. It takes more than a few data points to prove something. But proof is a far higher standard than practicality requires. Your success might be due to unknown factors, and your process might be a complete red herring. Fine! If it's working, don't look under the hood. It's not necessary to both succeed and explain how/why. Just keep going, and don't sweat naysayers - if, that is, you get (really) good results!
The Acupuncturist

I once knew an acupuncturist who got very good therapeutic results, and who was shockingly good at diagnosis. She'd know if your tumor had gotten worse. She could predict your blood test results. Stuff like that.

When I asked about her process, she demurred. Do I really want to know? I insisted, and she started telling me about how the earth spirits sing to her when she spins the....etc. etc. The audio mutes at that point, when I stopped paying attention.

It's not that I'd marked her as crazy, or a quack. Why would I do that? I'd most likely never believe in what she believed in, but I respected her results, regardless of how she got them. If you get (really) good results, I don't question your process.

The Car Detailer

I once wrote about a friend who details cars. His results, I swear to Jehovah, make your car look better than in the showroom. Better than the brochure. Not in some vulgar way. The finish isn't made extra shiny or sparkly. It's that your car gains an unmistakable classiness; a stateliness; a presence. It's eerie.

He's a genius who found a way. But for the yo-yos in the neighborhood (who'd readily concur re: his results), he's an "eccentric", because he doesn't do things the usual way (also: he's exuberant). In my profile of the guy, I wrote:
"Eccentric" means "odd and wrong". "Eccentric" people build perpetual motion machines, or believe they've found a way to communicate with the dead. They're absorbed in cranky, flaky quests which will never amount to much, but at least they're entertaining. It's a term of condescension; this is how we condescend to non-conformists. But is that an appropriate way to describe bona fide miracle workers?
You're not "eccentric" if you do better. Success should innoculate you from snark. If you get (really) good results, don't question your process.

Me

I talk to myself. A lot. Always have. My writing is just another channel in that outgoing stream.

At age 59 (and I've been everywhere, man), I've observed a large number of people talking to themselves. Some appear to be anxious, or to lack proper self-awareness. Many slide into reveries so readily that they lose touch with worldly experience. They're not here. In many/most cases, I'd use terms like "kooky" or "deranged" because insanity, as I once wrote, is the inability to reframe despite clear environmental cues. If you can't "read the room" - if you can't even perceive the room you're in - that's a problem. You will get poor life results until you manage to implant yourself in some semblance of a here-and-now.

Yet it goes without saying that reverie (deliberately light fixture in - or even temporary disconnection from - the here-and-now) does have its creative uses. I guess it's a matter of whether you can control it or not.

In my case, I verbalize thoughts and impulses to capture my intuitive flow. Unless I verbalize that stuff, it remains intuitive, steering "gut" and "heart", but entirely unavailable to my rational mind.

And the stuffy Victorian professor in my cranium needs to examine and make a ruling. It must all be crisply explained in nice clear words, dammit. Arranged into neatly digestible verbal cutlets. While the professor feels brilliantly robust, he's secretly quite feeble and needy. He easily grows upset and flustered if not fed properly. Hence the verbalized self-explanation.

I lacked this under-the-hood view for most of my life. All I knew was that I felt a mysterious compulsion to explain stuff to myself. I chalked it up to neurotic compulsiveness, and worried about myself....until years later, when it dawned on me that my process had worked tremendously well. This surprise came quite late in the game. Astonished, I gasped once I finally let myself see that I'd gotten really good results. It came as a surprise, and I realized that I didn't need to keep questioning my process.

The Stuffy Professor

If you don't understand the respiratory system, you might suspect that breathing itself is a neurotic compulsion. The stuffy Victorian Professor, in his boundless curiosity, might declare skepticism regarding this ridiculous huffing and puffing in which we endlessly engage.

Of course, that bodily function need not be thought about or declared upon. One might simply breathe, unexamined, as lamas and gerbils do. Let it be and go with the flow, baby. But a stuffy Victorian professor, in his staunch frosty rigor, won't shrug off doubts so easily. Skepticism compels examination. In time, the professor-in-your-head recognizes a proper basis for breathing and lets go. One can finally enjoy gerbil/lama breathing with no curious overseer injecting himself into the process. You got the stamp!

One might easily conclude that it's always better to go with the flow, baby. But, Jesus, imagine the potential disaster of an unexamined existence. Unchecked, I'd never cease chomping potato chips or chugging beer. I'd drive the wrong way down one-way roads (it's faster!), carry a gun and shoot awful people right in the head (I dislike them!), burn down my local Pizza Hut (eradicate shitty pizza!!), and randily hit on every attractive woman I ever encountered (ooh, shiny!!!).

Unchecked, id is horrendous. And it's checked not just by superego - conscience, shame, and moral compass - but also by knowledge and rationality. So we need to scrutinize gut feelings and apparently natural processes for bona-fide utility. And, even beyond that filtration point, the Professor is still more useful for fine-tuning and optimization. That's his jam!

Back to Me Again

The intuition that's laboriously been verbalized for my brain - logged via an outflow of words, both written and vocalized - has, to my utter shock, produced good results. And if you get good results, don't question your process!

Thanks for your suspicions, professor, but this process has proven beneficial. Scrutinize other stuff!

Youthful Processes

Young people don't know if their process works. They lack sufficient evidence. Without a track record of success to consider, who knows; your process might be wrong-headed! At very least, skeptical scrutiny is called for.

Ceaseless self-narration, for example, might represent disruptive anxiety rather than a mental logbook of insight and epiphany. There's no single recipe; no master list distinguishing fruitful, proper processes from ditzy, anxious, backfiring ones. We're all unique.
And that's precisely why you must never question someone's process - or your own - if it gets (really) good results!

The proof's in the pudding! By their deeds you will know them!
So I don't know what to tell people under 40, aside from the postcard I sent forward, as a child, to my adult self, reminding me
Be kinder to yourself.
Keep self-assessing - stay skeptical! - but maybe don't be the very harshest of hard-asses.

On the other hand, like anything else, self-kindness isn't the best process for all people in all scenarios. That's why I also sent along a caveat:
...but don't make a crutch out of it.

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