Reflections of the Soul

There’s a saying that the things you criticize most in others are your own biggest weaknesses. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it’s certainly true that things which bother me most about other people are things I utterly loathe in myself and try not to be.

That said, I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort working out what my motivations and the like actually are so that the narcolepsy-induced depression doesn’t eat me alive (for those not so familiar with the issue, being narcoleptic means that in addition to being constantly sleepy, I never get really good sleep. So I operate in a state more or less approximating coming off an all-nighter – medicated. Without medication it’s more like having been awake 48 hours plus. Chronic sleep deprivation causes depression. Therefore in addition to pure narcolepsy symptoms I get to “enjoy” depression. Go me).

I’ve noticed that with few exceptions (and most of the ones I know comment here, oddly enough), people don’t like having to think, and they really don’t like having to think about matters of ethics or morality. It seems to be a human default to want some authority to decree what is right and good as well as what is wrong and bad.

No doubt this makes things easier in a lot of ways, but it certainly doesn’t make things better. Instead of people figuring out what they approve of, what they can tolerate, and what gets a resounding “hell, no”, you get witch hunts. And if the authority in question is particularly shallow, today’s good thing becomes tomorrow’s witch hunt. Worse, since disapproval and even shunning doesn’t work on outsiders (and most of us here are outsiders more or less by definition. It kind of goes along with being Odd) doesn’t work that well on someone who isn’t in the group or community in the first place and doesn’t much want to be, the most vicious hunts are reserved for what might be called the fallen faithful. The traitors, in other words. I don’t think there’s a cult anywhere that treats the apostates who used to be faithful better than the designated enemy.

After all, the designated enemy is – by definition in most cults and a lot of religions – irredeemable. The apostate has a choice, and chooses to leave the fold. That, to the right mentality, makes them worse than the designated enemy, Great Satan, or (gasp) not-leftist.

The thing is, when this sort of thing happens, the loudest, most vicious persecutors are the ones who have doubts. They see their doubts reflected in the apostate who’s fallen from grace, and redouble their efforts both to prove to their compatriots that their faith remains strong, and to prove to themselves that they are still a rightful part of the group.

Orwell’s Two Minute Hate sessions show how well the man understood people: the Maoists in the Great Leap Forward (shame they were aiming for a canyon of crapsack world-building) made use of the same technique in their ritualistic denunciations, as did the Soviet show trials, and of course the Nazi rallies. Orwell just gave it a convenient name and imagined it as a rather pathetic ritual that would be followed by a nice cuppa with the neighbors.

These days the two minute hate is a hashtag and a handful of memes, usually recycled from somewhere else. And usually perpetrated by people whose souls are so tarnished by their lack of concern for anything outside their personal bubble all their actions reflect is the banality of evil. Yeah, I don’t have any respect for that kind of thing. It’s all rather contemptible, really.

The trouble is, when education is geared to suppress any kind of independent thought and all forms of entertainment are also aimed at suppressing any independent thought, and kids are being emotionally coddled in the name of “self esteem”, you don’t get adults who can think. You get overgrown emotional toddlers who throw tantrums when Mommy and Daddy Government don’t give them what they want. And everything they do and say reflects that.

Which is why indie publishing is good. Storytelling – as long as there’s a good story and said good story comes first – is an excellent way to spark thought. My earliest storytelling was shameless Mary-Sueing myself into the worlds I read about that I so wanted to be part of (in my defense, I was around 8 at the time). Then I started making my own worlds.

I’m tempted to say go forth and do thou also, but really since I’ve not been that good at writing lately, and I’ve been really shitty at getting what I write printed, I’d recommend that the writerly inclined go forth and do thou a damn sight better than me.

(Image By Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. –, Public Domain,


  1. Yo Kate.

    Good to see you spry enough to do a post. Enjoyed it.

    See a lot of overgrown kids around here in northern europe. Everyone had 20 years off the Soviet Scare, and we mostly turned Eloi in the brief period of permanent peace. Now we are busy morlocking each-other over the intersection of immigration, inclusion, and identity, on the general idea that it is my way or the collapse of society within a fortnight.

    Now for something happier.

    Comment on kids today, I agree with the 20+crowd being a waste of space but the younger ones are not totally lost yet.


    Had very nice conversation with daughter. Tried being provocative to crack teen-age shell.
    Me: “Are you a feminist?” (She ignores me and smiles when I ask about the boy-friend)
    Her: “Yes. Definitely.” A pause. “But it depends on what you mean with the word. A lot of people just use the label because you should.”
    20 questions ensued and she either had or could come up with a decent non-contradictory answer for each of them. Turned out she was all for equal chances, next to no coddling apart from better teachers, and generally in favor of boys and men as friends. She even erred a bit on including men’s views in ways I didn’t think were strictly necessary. My views don’t count but men in general should have equal say, she said.

    She being diligent has also decided to really read LOTR and watch Star-Wars IV-III seriously over Christmas. Says it’s neccessary to understand what her friend’s say. So a case where peer pressure happily trumps parental influence. (She chose Manga instead of the Hobbit a few years back and we didn’t lean too hard on her.)

    Ok. Long and not to the point, but Christmas break just happened so I’m a bit giddy. Odd question. What is the weight of your blankets when you sleep?

    1. Learning adulting is a process. You teach your children when they are at the elementary school level. When they reach high school level, you can help them with the homework as much as possible. Send them off to college, and they’re mostly on their own.

      Many of the problems we see (and have seen for ages) are the result of not establishing that “elementary adulting” when children are young. Like never teaching a child to read – and then expecting them to be a world class author when they grow up.

      Odd answer: Blankets are far too light when you are trying to get to sleep. I always have to hold down the ends by wrapping them around my poor cold feet. In the morning, they are way too heavy; it is very hard to get them off of me. YMMV…

  2. At Day Job, part of my duties include getting students to think. It’s a challenge some days, because it is easier (for a teacher) to drill and grade rote memory. Leading students to chew on facts and mull over them, apply them, ask questions of the past… that’s work. 🙂 And sometimes they come up with off the wall things that have to be gently shepherded back towards sanity (the FDA declaring chocolate a fruit and adding it to the food pyramid and subsidizing it sounds great. The results… blagh.)

    1. I’m going to give a shout-out for rote memory. Because without a personal data base of facts, what does a person have to think about or reason with?

      1. Rote memory is good. But focusing on name, date, data to the exclusion of analysis, at least in a classroom setting that is aimed towards a test that is 70% analysis… not so good.

    2. Huh. My mother complained that she would assign ions and tell the students to memorize them, and they had NO CLUE how to rote memorize something.

      1. In my… I want to say that it was the Sedimentary/Stratigraphy class… the professor had us do a quiz one day a week for the entire semester of filling in the names and dates on a geologic history chart… starting from the bottom it was something like Please Come Over Sometime Dear, and Maybe..(Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian…). I don’t remember the rest but I can *list* the rest, more or less. And the dates. Other than the dinosaurs dying in 66M AD I always have to look.

        In Real Life I use the dumb thing All The Time but I still have to look it up.

  3. Yeah, Kirk would post a fairly hardline version of that observation.

    In my case, with my irrational degree of dislike of recreational drug use…

    I struggle with other sorts of behaviors that are addictive and self destructive. You can wreak your life fairly thoroughly not making good use of time. You make bad use of time, you can’t get anything done. You can’t get anything done, it starts looking impossible to make a success in life. Some of my problems making good use of time were of medical origin. Addressing, or at least temporarily addressing, the medical side let me get in some years of enhanced productivity. I got hope again.

    Made me a little less intense about the specific other people I let myself dislike because of my own self hatred.

    Some of the medical side may have caught up with me again, but I feel I have options now, and I’m prepared to wait on some of my dreams getting the medical sorted.

  4. . It seems to be a human default to want some authority to decree what is right and good as well as what is wrong and bad.

    I know what you mean by this, but I would point out that it’s not entirely a bad thing. If you’re always deciding for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong, then it’s far too easy to justify whatever you want to do as the “right” thing. For example, there’s a lot of information out there about how to cheat the self-checkout scanners. When people are called on the fact that this is in fact stealing, they usually justify it with some version of, “Well, it’s the store’s fault for putting in the self-checkout kiosks instead of hiring more checkers; therefore, by cheating the store, I’m striking a blow for worker’s rights.” Having an external commandment that says, “Thou shalt not steal,” no exceptions, doesn’t let you do that to the same extent. You may still steal, but it’s harder to claim that it’s not wrong.

    As a side note, I will say that having a child has done wonders for my morality. Whenever she’s with me, I feel the need to be the kind of person I want her to grow up to be. She’s better than St. Nick at being constantly watching my behavior.

    1. Oh, no argument there. It’s one thing to go through the received morality (“Thou shalt not steal”) and agree with it so therefore restrain oneself. It’s another entirely to accept without criticism every other thing that comes from the same source, and that’s the uncritical acceptance I object to.

      Of course, I’m also sufficiently weird that I went through and sorted my personal morality from first principles (and got something very close to traditional Western libertarian Christian morality along the way). One day I’ll sit down and write the process down.

    2. When I was in the Air Force and in the Philippines I thought quite a bit about the difference between those people who carried their morality inside of themselves and those who only had it when it was imposed from outside themselves. “Good” people who would never do X observed with the *opportunity* to do X seem to fall into those two groups.

      1. I had the opportunity to listen to Timothy Snyder, the guy who wrote Black Earth and Bloodlands, give a talk on the former. The point he emphasized was that Jews and others that the Nazis classified as undesirables were at the highest risk in those areas where there was no law but what the German high command made. The part that really stuck, though was this–where there was lawlessness, the only people who came out with honor were those who had a moral code beyond “this is what society deems acceptable.”

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