Being Human

Many times over the last year or so, I’ve wondered: What one thing do I wish everyone knew? What one thing, if known, could make a better world possible?

I’ve come up with a hundred answers. Each time, I can find more counterarguments than arguments to support a given answer, so I discard it.

Finally, last week, I landed on a one-thing with few worthy counterarguments.

Over the last couple of weeks, my third-grade son has repeatedly reflected right-answer thinking. This is a kind of thinking that perceives the world in dualities instead of dimensions–yes/no, black/white, Democrat/Republican, right/wrong–and which struggles to account for systems, complexity, and the interdependencies that grow in complex systems.

So I’ve faced a question: In a social world constructed to cultivate such thinking, how does one teach other ways? How does one reveal its shortcomings in ways that can work for a third grader, especially when that third grader is stuck in a system that rewards right answers over piercing questions? Continue reading “Being Human”


Read I Will!

I haven’t had much focus for reading and writing analytically the last couple of weeks. I wasn’t sure what was going on until I went readwalking for a few minutes on Friday evening.

Much as I’ve loved reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb the last few weeks, I’m rationing his Antifragile. Instead of reading Taleb, then, I read a few pages in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, which I found via Taleb.

Between Taleb and Kahneman, I’m finding something like peace.

I began my flurry of book-reading about this time last year. At the time, I–then a lifelong U.S. Democrat–was motivated to deeper reading by my absolute horror with Democratic officials. I was certain that the badness I was witnessing in articles and soundbites was just the tip of a badness iceberg.

I confirmed my suspicions fairly quickly, and loathed myself for having unquestioningly, for decades, embraced Democrats as the good guys. But something else grew beyond that: a concern that truth didn’t seem to be what most folks online were after. In fact, over and over again, I witnessed people I love and admire actively rejecting the mere possibility something they didn’t want to be true could be true. That tendency troubled me much more deeply than wrongdoing by a relatively small number of elites.

Why? Because of the potential consequences to humankind’s future by large groups of people believing things that aren’t true. I’d seen self-protective denial exercised over and over in my childhood, thanks to growing up in poverty and predation. I just hadn’t realized that the strategy I saw wives of predators (and jurors) adopt was only one expression of something destructive that runs to the core of American life. Last year was when I began to understand that the denial of reality I saw in childhood was a fraction of damaging denial worldwide. Continue reading “Read I Will!”