Admiration and hopeless creativity

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Things I’ve done well today:

1) I’m going to cheat to start of with and talk about something good I did last night. A friend’s mother suffered an aneurism several months ago, and was only released from hospital a few weeks ago. Only into a rehabilitation centre, though, not home. My friend has been spending what seems like every weekend – and probably some weekdays or nights – with her, keeping her company. If only I could say I’d been doing something like that – that’s truly a good deed. What I did do was finally tell my friend how much I admired her for what she was doing, how she was handling it. In her shoes I don’t think there are many people who could handle it as well as she is. I can only begin to imagine the stress the ordeal must be placing on her, and the rest of her family.

I’m not very good at complimenting people…. or saying anything positive, really. I’ve been making an effort to change that for quite some time now, but I think I must still sound facetious or condescending or fake or whatever… 🙁 Still, if practice makes perfect the trend at least is looking positive. 🙂

2) Silly little 3D cover art for my ARC assignment. The assignment was to build a fairly trivial cache simulator, and to analyse the results. An image for the cover art sprung into my head, of blocks sliding in and out of a “cache”… so I fired up good ol’ Bryce 5 and try to get my mental imagine into solid pixels. It took a while, but I’m reasonably happy with the result… couldn’t quite get the “glossy” appearance I wanted, but it’s nifty enough. Not worth spending too much time on.

I’m happy about this because I like to indulge my creative side where possible, but it rarely is these days, what with work and school and other commitments. I think it’s important to have a creative outlet now and again, to help maintain a mental balance.

3) Spent most of the evening working on ARC (i.e. homework). I’ve been getting a little slack lately with school work, so I’m happy with myself that I committed to it and did spent quite a bit of time on it. Of course, I had wanted to finish it tonight, but it turns out my simulator disagrees with dineroIV, for reasons I don’t yet know… gah. I suspect dineroIV is bjorked… the readme and other paraphernalia mention a lot of naughty hacks which seem like plausible contributors to the discrepancies I’m observing. I’ve certainly looked over my own code, without finding anything obvious.

Introduction

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I should explain this category before I go full hog into it. I’ve just read an article which looks in quite some detail at the “science of happiness” – in particular how modern psychology is adapting (or, failing) to look at happiness in a more methodical manner. Particularly in relation to “interventions” (treatments), which have traditionally been all about “tell me about your childhood, when did it all go wrong?” and stuff like that.

I know for myself that dwelling on negative events or emotions of course just creates more negativity – I think everyone can agree with that. I think the point of regressive psychoanalysis is to resolve outstanding issues. Perhaps some psychologists have lost sight of that. Thinking about negative events only has a positive outcome if you can resolve them, or have some sort of epiphany that imparts greater insight – perhaps the mere act of such epiphanies make us happier in their own right.

In any case, the underlying message is to focus on the positive, the future. One of the real stingers put forward by supporters of this “new psychology” is that humans are hard-wired to focus on negative stimuli, and to remember them for longer and with more emotional strength than positive ones. Something about hardship growing up… snow and lava and sabre-tooth tigers and all that. 😉

So, one “therapy” proposed is to keep a simple diary where you write down a few things (e.g. 3) each day that you think you [yourself] did well, and to reflect on why those things went well. Thus, I’m starting this. I’m traditionally pretty bad at keeping up little regimes like diaries and the like, so maybe this’ll peter out once the novelty wears off… still, I think I’m about over negativity at the moment, and could use a good change.

Altruism

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I had an argument last night with someone as to whether altruism exists or not. Their argument was essentially “of course it does”. They used the example of a car accident they were in a while ago, in which they were very nearly killed, but they still consoled the driver of the other car (whom they feel was at fault). They ask what they could possibly be getting from doing something like that.

My argument is that human’s are incapable of rationalising in an altruistic way. For example, giving to charity is not altruistic, because we do it knowing full well it will make us feel better about ourselves. If we didn’t feel better, we wouldn’t do it.

Long story short, the argument was never resolved as my opponent simply shouted me down in the end, but I’ve continued thinking about it to myself. I do agree that there is some actions that appear altruistic, but I wonder if they “count”… for example, in the car accident situation posed above, she was deep in shock – she was unable to remember any details when questioned by police at the scene, and couldn’t even be sure she hadn’t been drinking, despite the fact that she never drank anyway. So, it is unlikely she was getting anything out of it consciously. That leaves three possibilities:

1) Humans look after their own interests subconsciously, and she was thus aware her actions would have positive consequences for herself (at a later date, even).
2) She was not acting rationally and was simply going through motor motions that seemed suitable for the situation.
3) She was being altruistic.

Now, the first one is kind of true and kind of silly. Humans do tend to protect their own interests subconsciously – observe physical defence mechanisms that are reactionary and unconscious. Yet it sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-ish, and beyond that it blurs the line between conscious and subconscious, which defeats the purpose of their definition.

The second one I prefer. It implies selflessness in the literal sense, but still agrees with my personal feelings on the subject, as altruism is something I believe must be consciously engaged, by definition. So any subconscious actions are of course irrelevant.

The third option is pretty straight forward, but can be disproved in two ways. Firstly, observe that the two other alternatives are more explainable and more logical by their own semi-proofs. That’s not enough, though. The clincher is…

…and that’ll learn me to stop in the middle of something and not resume it ’till several days later. I have no idea what I was about to say. Hopefully it’ll come back to me at some point.