Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2017-06-07T19:50:04Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com June 7. http://ranprieur.com/#6b44469ddc8745fd0f0afcb598ed0132040c2cda 2017-06-07T19:50:04Z June 7. Taking another crack at Monday's subject: If someone is better than you at anything, there's always a deeper reason. We understand this for intellectual and physical skills, like being good at math or baseball. But our culture thinks differently about emotional skills like courage, kindness, honesty, drive.

This subreddit post mentions a bunch more, taken from this page of 24 character strengths. We imagine that people with these kinds of skills have somehow earned them, when usually they were born with them (or with simpler component skills), or their family helped them develop the skills at such a young age that they don't remember not having them.

Of course you can improve "good person" skills as an adult, but what arcane factor separates someone who does this from someone who doesn't? We imagine that it's just some deeper level of being a good person, and so on, turtles all the way down.

It doesn't occur to us to think of good character as a matter of luck. We actually have a taboo against the idea. That's why the Big Five personality model, which says the traits are mostly fixed for life, won't say that high conscientiousness is better than low conscientiousness, or that low neuroticism is better than high neuroticism -- but those judgments saturate our culture.

On a personal note, it feels liberating to think of character as a matter of luck. For more than 20 years, since I sent my first photocopied zine out for review, strangers have been attacking my character, and I've been doing the most obvious and least effective thing: defending my character. I'm so deficient in wisdom and creativity that it took me 20 years to figure out the better move. There's an old Billy Bragg song with the line "Just because you're better than me, doesn't mean I'm lazy." I always thought it would be more radical the other way around: "Just because I'm lazy doesn't mean you're better than me." But the even more radical move is to concede both points.

June 5. http://ranprieur.com/#6af213a303be6faf234a87317fa2b06776d4d10b 2017-06-05T17:30:09Z June 5. Following a tangent from this question three weeks ago: What are the deep differences between people who are good at life and people who are bad at life? I'm not the best person to answer that, but I'm also not the worst. That would be someone like Elon Musk who has always been successful. Whatever it is that makes someone good at life, for a lucky few it's so intuitive that they're not aware of it and couldn't describe it.

This is true for everything. If you've had to grind through the details of getting good at something, then you can tell others how to do it, but if you can't remember not being there, then you can't see the path.

Also, if you can't remember not being good at something, then it's tempting to dismiss people who are not good at it, to see them as inferior in some absolute way. "Idiot" is a word used by people who take their brainpower for granted. No one who has struggled with low motivation would call someone "lazy". Even people who were born rich tend to believe that money comes from virtue, when they themselves got it through luck.

So as a general rule, talent feeds disparagement and hard-learned skill feeds compassion.

Are there moral talents? There are attributes considered moral by this culture, that are subject to talent. This leads to a weird paradox, where a naturally good person might be less good than a naturally bad person who becomes good.

June 2. http://ranprieur.com/#8f5d0ae282ab680c07ef80e29b14f7e54ac60fe2 2017-06-02T14:00:07Z June 2. I've already changed my mind about the last post, where I said we need to find a way to live where it doesn't even occur to us to search for meaning. In that world, everything we do would be laid out for us, already intrinsically rewarding. It would feel great, but we would be basically unconscious, like compulsive gamblers except our every action would be part of a sensible sustainable airtight system: Prison Utopia.

Agonizing over the meaning of life is an unpleasant symptom of something good: a world full of questions, full of cracks, full of uncanny possibility. Existential angst is a small price to pay for freedom, and we need to be challenged by even more freedom until we learn to thrive in uncertainty.

This brings me around to my favorite political cause, the Unconditional Basic Income. I just found out that Finland is already experimenting with a basic income. It's not yet for everyone, just for the unemployed, but if they get jobs they get to keep it.

And after I mentioned Buckminster Fuller, a reader sent this quote:

We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

It also occurs to me that a UBI could make us nomadic again. Our prehistoric ancestors were constantly moving around, but then agriculture and industry forced us to settle down, and settling down geographically is linked to settling down mentally. A good book on this subject is Wandering God by Morris Berman. But as agriculture and industry get more mechanized, more of us can go full circle to the wandering life. We would just need transportation and travel housing cheap enough to fit under the basic income.