Nasty Character Traits Need an Outlet

Time passes slowly at the old folks home in Amsterdam.

If you don’t have anything special to do all day long, a molehill can turn into a mountain. A person’s time must be filled with something; one’s attention has to have a focus. Nasty character traits need an outlet. In contrast to what you’d expect, narrow-mindedness increases and tolerance lessens with the onset of old age. “Old and wise” is the exception rather than the rule.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen, Hester Velmans (Translator) (Amazon US)

Hendrik Groen’s diary is Adrian Mole for the grey generation.

Hunger or Craving?

Michael Graziano rather persuasively argues that the body’s mechanisms for managing hunger work just fine. Eating high-carbohydrate food products, calorie-counting, snacking, etc. mess up the body’s default mechanisms and lead to obesity.

Graziano makes the case that hunger, for many people, is a psychological state. The hunger mood can make a small plate of food look like either not-enough or not-now-I’m-full. A successful strategy for managing hunger would work with the body’s hunger mechanisms and avoid the use of will power.

He does not lay out a 10-step plan or techniques to deploy in the article. Each person has to find their own path. In his case, that meant a low-carb, slightly higher-fat diet and the permission to eat as much as he wanted at any meal. His essay goes into more depth on his reasons for adopting an ultimately successful eating plan.

For myself, I prefer eating one-meal-a-day and that has proven to be a low-effort strategy for me. But I do get plagued around 2-4pm by hankerings for whatever is in the snack machine at work.

Here’s a technique I found years ago that helps me in the moment. Whenever I feel prompted to raid the snack machine, I stand up, take a deep breath, put my hands on my stomach, and ask “Is this hunger or craving?” Before I’m done asking the question, I know that it’s usually craving. At that point, I get water or coffee, walk around outside, or socialize — anything that gets me physically moving and uses the large muscles of the body or in some way distracts my attention.

The Magic of Utility, the Utility of Magic

Wonderful summing-up final paragraph from Stefany Anne Golberg’s essay on The Long Lost Friend:

There’s a mood of disorientation and longing in The Long Lost Friend‘s title that strikes a different note than the confident claims to be found inside. Maybe this is the book’s “Long-Hidden” message, its essence, and the essence of all the self-help books that would follow it. The self-help book, via The Long Lost Friend, is an appeal to the American still wandering in the wilderness, curious about everything, needing nothing, wanting it all but not knowing how to get it, believing in the magic of utility, and the utility of magic.

A Colossal Self-Satisfaction

Walt Whitman:

It does a man good to turn himself inside out once in a while: to sort of turn the tables on himself: to look at himself through other eyes—especially skeptical eyes, if he can. It takes a good deal of resolution to do it: yet it should be done—no one is safe until he can give himself such a drubbing: until he can shock himself out of his complacency. Think how we go on believing in ourselves—which in the main is all right (what could we ever do if we didn’t believe in ourselves?)—a colossal self-satisfaction, which is worse for a man than being a damned scoundrel.

See also

Dream-child

Walt Whitman tells a story:

A woman I knew once asked a man to give her a child: she was greatly in love with him: it was not done: he did not care that much for her: he said to her, “all children should be love children”: then he thought she might repent if the thing was done: after his refusal she said: “Now I suppose you despise me.” He said: “Despise you? no: I respect you: I feel that you have conferred the highest honor on me.” Years after, he met her again. She was married—had children. But she said to him: “I still love my dream-child best.”

Reminding You Who's In Charge

From ProPublica: the number of IRS audits of a poor county in Mississippi makes it the most heavily audited county in America.

In a baffling twist of logic, the intense IRS focus on Humphreys County [in Mississippi] is actually because so many of its taxpayers are poor. More than half of the county’s taxpayers claim the earned income tax credit, a program designed to help boost low-income workers out of poverty. As we reported last year, the IRS audits EITC recipients at higher rates than all but the richest Americans, a response to pressure from congressional Republicans to root out incorrect payments of the credit.

The logic is clear, as the final sentence indicates: Republicans in power want to remind you who’s in charge, no matter what the cost in dollars or fairness.

Who is our Community?

Brilliant, tough, compassionate story from Buzzfeed’s Joe Bernstein on the Baraboo photo:

The culture of racist irony that prevails online and offline today is, in part, a distancing technique that creates the space people need to dehumanize and harm other people. The Christchurch shooter’s video is the most chilling and extreme documentation of this phenomenon. But it’s a mistake to think this dynamic only exists in extreme cases. Intolerance in Baraboo frequently came from a distance: shouted from a speeding car, carved into a sidewalk and left to shock, posted to the doors of the middle school. What does a racist joke do except create the cognitive distance necessary to do harm, dissolve the bonds of moral obligation? Ironic hatred, captured at the wrong time, was capable of pulling bedrock feelings of belonging and safety in a close community into question.

Another part of the story got my attention: the lack of context not just of the photo, but of each community member’s — parent and child — lack of knowledge of history and in some cases willful blindness of possible harm caused to others.