The flexible human mind

I stumbled across a comedy bit by Tim Minchin today (here, if you’re interested. NSFW) and in the course of this hypothetical argument, he asks an interesting question:

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?

Our physical existence is profoundly complicated and strange enough on its own without including in the unprovable things like ghosts and auras and astrology. But I think it’s not a case of being uninterested or unaware of that complexity. Instead, it’s the  sheer overwhelming mystery of our mundane world that sends us running for the comfort of the unprovable. The average person (and I am one of them) will never fully understand the reasons and motivations for their own actions, much less the actions of others, and that can be frightening. Hugh MacLennan said it much more eloquently than I ever could:

“…there is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.”

When you give yourself an out, something to believe in that can’t really be disproven, you find a little pocket of simulated control over your universe. And that’s fine, keep your psychics and your ghost whisperers and your magic crystals, if they bring you solace and peace of mind. But when we meet to discuss the issues facing everyone in the public realm, please bring an amount of respect for evidence, and for the people who have made it their goal to study the science of the situation, and leave your unknowable mysteries at home.

More on the topic of the peculiar enigma that is my mental state. On Tuesday, I had what I would call “a productive day”. I managed to have 2 creative writing sessions in one day, instead of bullrushing through as much as I could in one sitting before being sick of writing and storming away from the table. I polished off on a non-fiction article, did a bunch of volunteer stuff, and slogged through a 5KM treadmill run. Not bad. I also had a strategy session with the wife, talking about the things we should look at starting in the new year, and during that talk, I could feel the insecure part of myself start to fidget, unwilling to accept taking on more challenge. The balance of power in my brain has shifted though, and I had enough ego power to squash that insecure voice and stifle its panicky rejection of the possibility of trying to do something new and scary (specifically, taking university courses).  I’m thrilled that I’m gaining the ability to sit on my panic and anxiety and interrupt my natural inclination to freak out.

It wasn’t all victory and smiles, however. Yesterday (Wednesday) I was the short-tempered growler, easily frustrated and angered by everyone around me. I think it was the panicky idiot part of my psyche getting revenge on me for suppressing it the day before, joining forces with the lazy part of my brain to hold a testosterone-fueled protest against the tyranny of the logical brain. It didn’t help that I spent the morning trying to pry an audio interview file out of my malfunctioning iPhone:tech issues always drive me into a rage.

After flying off the handle at other drivers and speaking tersely to my very forgiving wife a couple of times, I finally recognized the behaviour I was exhibiting, and I explained the situation to the family. The little dude and the wife worked together as a team to help me focus and calm down, and by the end of the night, everyone was sound as a pound. Go team! My family is awesome.

 

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