Wednesday, December 26, 2007

OBEY!

It’s the end of a year. Again. They keep coming (and ending). I suppose I shouldn’t complain, right? But… well, what’s up with this bald spot I’m growing? Oh, yeah, and that belly that’s getting bigger… AND, since we’re on the topic of complaints, why is the distance I need to see things clearly starting to change too?

I’ve noticed that in the past six-or-so years, I was getting pretty nostalgic. My thoughts would often wander back to my younger days. (See my June 2007 entry, for example!) I’d start to play that, “what if” game where I try to imagine “what if” I’d made different decisions in my life. For instance, what if I’d accepted that faculty position right out of graduate school. I’d probably still be living in Charleston! What students would I have bored with my lectures? I’d probably have been a full professor for years by now! What friends would I have had? Would the weather have ruined my house? You get the idea.

These past few months, though, I’ve not been so reminiscent. Maybe because I had my worst semester EVER. Or, maybe I (finally) got bored with that going-nowhere game. I’m looking more toward the future for now.

But, enough of this “dear diary” dribble!

I’ve been getting swept up by my “psychology of belief” interests lately. This coming semester I’ll be teaching a course on this topic (I’ve been toiling away making dowsing rods for my students to use – and keep – to illustrate aspects of belief formation). It’s been two years since the last time I started this course. I got REALLY burned out on the topic AND the apparent futility of it all.

It’s fascinating to see how cleverly people hold on to stupid beliefs, inconsistent beliefs, clearly-wrong beliefs, and bad beliefs. Hell, people are even pretty good at exchanging perfectly good beliefs for terrible beliefs if the idiotic beliefs are presented just the right way!

It burns me out to see how easily human thinking careens out of control (yes, even my OWN thinking – I’m not trying to climb any damn pedestals).

Imagine being a driving instructor. You tell the new student to turn left at the next intersection. “Watch out for that truck!” The student turns and avoids the truck. “OK, go straight through the next light and then take the right turn at the stop sign, but watch out for that bus!” The student seems to follow all your instructions just fine. Eventually, you end up back at the driving school. “Watch out for that motorcycle!” They watch out and park just fine. Yippie, a new driver!

After they pocket their shiny new license, you watch them drive away – and immediately crash into oncoming traffic. How depressing.

Anyway… maybe this semester will be different? Maybe this time I will do something right and actually reach a few more?

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