Questions

“Does as much power come out of a wall socket as comes out of a computer charger?” That’s what my therapist wants to know. I start to explain, talk about voltage and amperage. Actually I don’t know much about electricity, I never understood that in school.

If I didn’t understand it, why didn’t I ask my teachers, the therapist wants to know.

“An excellent question!” I answer, to get some time to think. “Well, the teachers explained it, on top of that it was in the textbooks, but I still didn’t understand it. It never occurred to me to ask, I thought that the teachers would only think I was stupid. In a way I was, because I didn’t know how this electricity thing worked… And I was lazy, too, I skimmed the texts in the schoolbooks, always convinced that I wouldn’t understand them anyway. You got points if you gave correct answers. Questions, however, were not rewarded. I always had the impression that questions annoyed teachers, because they were questions about things they had already explained. Today I think that maybe the questions annoyed the teachers because they took the questions as an allegation that they had not explained it properly. And so I learned to please the teachers by not asking stupid questions and I learned how to get points by pretending to understand.

“It’s all about you in your mind,” my therapist said, and it took me quite a while to understand.

Already at school I was very busy thinking about how others see me. Instead of learning, I kept my mind busy making predictions about what my teachers would think of me. I was quite afraid to embarrass myself. And so I was so occupied with myself that I forgot to ask questions.

Fools have a clear opinion

There was a time when a fool was one who didn’t care. The one who lay on the sofa and let God be a good man. “Let the monkeys in the capital decide that, I’m too stupid for that”, is a sentence that I remember from that time.

Today, fools are distinguished by the fact that they have a very clear opinion even on the most complicated subjects. “It’s obvious that… ” is a typical beginning of a sentence, by which you can recognize the modern fool. Modern fools are also tireless in stressing that what they say must not be said, especially not in the media. At the same time, the media constantly reports what the fools think, what the fools say, and there is speculation as to what the fools do might lead to.

In the past, when not so much attention was paid to fools, fools seemed to be quite good-humored contemporaries. When you looked at them, they seemed satisfied, as if they could get something good out of the situation they were in. Modern fools, on the other hand, have faces distorted with rage. They rant and scream and insult those who put microphones in their face. The fools claim that those with microphones are only lying anyway and are also puppets. This is another such foolish image, because puppets cannot lie, if they do, then the puppeteer is lying, or else we are in a fairy tale, in a story in which everything comes down to one goal, in which everything is a great conspiracy.

Fools can be recognized by the words they use when they tell their story about the world. Fools always exaggerate, they say ‘always’ instead of ‘often’, ‘all’ instead of ‘many’, they say ‘the people’ instead of ‘we’.

The sentences of the fools are full of terms like ‘the problem is’, ‘to be honest’, ‘things are not as simple as they seem’, ‘Hillary’, ‘Benghazi’, ‘Obama’, ‘dems’, ‘islamists’, ‘open borders’, ‘liberals’, ‘jihadist’, ‘muslims’, ‘killed’, ‘I am not saying’, ‘tyranny’, ‘globe’, ‘reputation’, ‘folks’, ‘I am trying very hard to not be a cynic’, ‘this are just a bunch of people trying to’, ‘cover up’, ‘I am certainly not’, ‘any of this’, ‘I have not heard anybody say’, ‘anything remotely’, ‘lip service’, ‘exercise’, ‘Washington has become’, ‘the only reason’, ‘the biggest mistake we can make’, ‘but I think’, ‘on the record’, ‘he was on MSNBC last night’, ‘by that I mean’, ‘the virtues’, ‘the people of America’, ‘the country’, ‘needless mistake’, ‘the truth’, ‘America needs to hear’, ‘ the ruination’, ‘this country’, ‘you can say good bye’, ‘if they prevail’, ‘this nation’, ‘constitutional republic’, ‘there is always’, ‘but’, ‘(you can not) watch this’, ‘the world’s greatest economy’, ‘purposefully destroyed’, ‘what this country was’, ‘now they are making’, ‘I warned you’, ‘this was coming’, ‘close to the point in time’, ‘they think’, ‘the government’, ‘everybody’, ‘seriously pushing it out’, ‘I am telling you’, ‘all of these experts’, ‘policies and wishes’, ‘take a look’, ‘people are getting restless’, ‘this is seen as an opportunity to finally archive their objectives’, ‘I can’t believe it is that close’, ‘they are openly advocating’, ‘all of this’, ‘actually correct’, ‘the media’, ‘anything’, ‘accomplished’, ‘I can’t imagine’, ‘the average ordinary American citizen watching this’, ‘somebody in the American military’, ‘believe’, ‘out of control’ ‘bureaucracy on steroids’, ‘areas of so-called expertise’ etc.

The fools speak of systems as if they were people ‘the global financial system commands’ and attribute will to the systems, as if there were someone who could speak with one voice. The system-persona follows an evil plan, which the fools have made it their business to uncover. Much like the hero of a film who realizes earlier than the others what the plot of the story is – the goal that everything boils down to. And as in the film, nothing is random, every detail has meaning in the struggle between good and evil.

The fools overlook the fact that the world is not a film. The world is infinitely more complex than any story. Humans have invented stories to simplify the complicated world. The fool confuses the world with the stories he tells himself.

If only the fool would at least be happy. But the fool is beside himself with rage. He tells himself the world in stories but it doesn’t work at all. You’d think the fool would give up, get back on the sofa and let God be a good man. Maybe someday it might even happen. But right now, it doesn’t look like it. The fools are getting more and more nervous, because the world does not stick to any plan and the fools get surprised again and again. It’s as if the system person is always conjuring up a new twist out of a hat. This strengthens the fools even more in their belief that they are dealing with a particularly powerful opponent. Yet the world is only what it has always been: complex.

Sand in the Hands

I sit in the kitchen in the morning sun and drink coffee. Some asshole is riding his moped down the street. How the noise of those mopeds annoys me, I think. And then I look at the thought. What is it about that noise that bugs me? Could I love that noise too? I dig a little in my memory.

Was it Italy or Greece, whatever, an apartment or maybe a room in a bed and breakfast? In a seaside resort not far from the beach. Roof terrace or balcony, or just an open window? Outside, the sound of a moped. The smell of coffee, breakfast, hard-boiled eggs. Yes, I can remember hearing the same engine noise and how I liked to hear it. How I listened to the sounds and how beautiful the moment was.

When I was a kid, all that was, was what it was. It was only with language that I began to judge the world, that I began to divide it into good and bad. I can’t remember ever crying. Sure I cried, like every child, I just don’t have a memory of it. But I can remember moments of happiness and those moments were nothing special.

When I think of moments of happiness in my childhood, I remember the sand in my hands, the tiny little red beetles on the asphalt but not the Carrera track that I got for Christmas and which I had to defend against my brothers until one day it was forgotten in its box.

So what distinguishes the sand in your hands from the Carrera track? The sand in my hands is a moment, a moment, meaningful only because I remember it.

The Carrera track is also a memory, but it is not the memory of a moment, it is the memory of a story that had its beginning (Christmas), drama (the fight with the brothers) and an end (the box in the cellar). A story with a timeline, a connection of moments to a unity. I don’t remember the moments, I remember the story, which, like any story, is connected to suffering. A story in which there is no suffering does not exist, it does not function as a story.

Are there also moments of suffering? I do not have to search long in my memory to find an example. In my early thirties I had a slipped disc. I had never had such pain in my life and never since then. I lay on the floor alone in my apartment for many hours and could not move because the slightest change in my position caused even more pain. But the strange thing is, when I think back to this moment there is no wound. On the contrary, it is an experience that I do not want to repeat, but I would not want to miss.

I have often asked myself how this can be and I put it this way: I have never been nailed into a moment like I have been then, for hours. There was no thought of the future or the past, there was only the concentration on the position of my body and on finding, through a tiny movement, a position that was perhaps a little less unbearable. I was so occupied by the moment that I had no resources to think about the future or grieve over the past. What was, was the moment, for hours.

So it’s not the noise that’s annoying. Suffering doesn’t seem to be caused by pain alone either.

Then what is it?

I have a suspicion that the suffering is rooted in the story. In the story with its beginning and its end, which is accompanied by an evaluation of what the story is, be it positive or negative. Story always has something to do with verdict, with judging what to learn from it, for later.

From a moment you learn nothing. The sand in your hands, the unbearable pain.

STORIES ARE VIRUSES OR A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF HOW EXTREME STORY-TELLING can UNFAVOURABLY IMPACT REALITY

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the residence of Minnesota’s governor on Friday to protest lockdown.

The New York Times April 18, 2020

That’s the kind of story the news likes to tell. It’s a great story because it’s unusual and disturbing at the same time.

Unusual because we should all have understood by now what this virus is all about and why and how we should help to contain its spread. Disturbing, because there are people who see it differently, express it militantly and thus again become a danger to everyone.

Somewhere in the USA, where not only the brightest lights live, hundreds (and on the pictures it looks more like hundred than hundreds) of the most stupid apes have gathered, waving blue-white-red flags and doing hullabaloo. They protest that the lockdown will be lifted. They demand their normal life back.

This is stupid for two obvious reasons.
1. as long as a larger part of society is afraid of a contagious disease, which can best be protected from by renouncing normal life, there will be no normal life.
2. it is a stupid idea to form a group with 100 others at times when a contagious virus is circulating.

In the sense of the opponents of the lockdown, an information campaign would make more sense, which explains to the people that their worries are completely unfounded because… And exactly this “because” is what is lacking. Because there are no good arguments. (The “argument” of the lockdown plunges many people into a shitty situation is not an argument, it is an observation).

Putting yourself in a group of 100 people at the moment is also pretty stupid, because it increases the risk of getting infected with the virus (even if you don’t believe in it). But this demonstration is unlikely to result in its participants becoming infected. The larger the group of people, the more likely they are to be infected, but for this relatively small group, the probability is not too high.

So most likely these idiots will not be infected, but they will probably use this as a way to “prove” how exaggerated the fear is. (Strictly speaking, they are just proving how bad their understanding of probability is, but that is nothing unusual, because humans in general are terribly bad at grasping probabilities intuitively (see Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”).

The danger is high, however, that they will give others stupid ideas.

The perfidious thing about the story of the events, like the demonstration of the stupid monkeys in Minnesota, is that telling the story leads to many more people getting similarly stupid ideas. If 1000 times 100 people meet and wave flags, then we will almost certainly have a Super Spreader Event. That will actually have an impact.

So the only really scary element in the story of the demonstration of the stupid monkeys is the fact that we tell it to each other – and spread it by telling it.

In fact, the story is like the Corona virus itself. Anyone who tells the story transmits the virus. Most people don’t get sick.If someone gets sick, one symptom of the illness is that they go out into the street, form groups with others, wave flags and shout “Freedom!

By the way, this is the same with all stories. (The symptoms of the respective illness are very different and in most cases completely harmless).

Stories are viruses.