Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 193, September 2015)
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At the moment I read a column in the New York Times by a woman who claimed her publishing efforts were frustrated by gender bias, I was reading six books, one by a man and five by women.
When unemployment dipped to under six percent (and I believe five percent is chronic unemployment) I read that "experts" thought it was illusory, and the economy had "underlying weaknesses."
I had read that A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) would never be accepted back with the Yankees or at his age or by other players after the drug scandals and suspension. Yet here he is having a fabulous year for a first place team and colleagues arguing that he should have been included on the all-star team.
I've been told thousands of times that hard copy books would not be published much longer, that we would have a checkless society, and that we'd see paperless offices. Yet I'm surrounded by paper, see books printed every day the old fashioned way, and gladly accept checks, which I get a lot of.
Of course, Apple was going to decline post-Steve Jobs, there was a democratic "Arab Spring" around the corner in the Mideast, and diet products were good for us, then no good for us, and now are good for us again. These opinions change as frequently as the San Francisco weather, which is minute-by-minute.
I'm increasingly convinced that you have to abide by the old dictum, "consider the source." An insurance professional will always tout the benefits of investing in large insurance policies, although it's almost always the worst investment you can make, short of swamp land. The worst stuff I hear about internal combustion engines is from the electric car investors. (Tesla seems more like a charity looking for government help than an auto company.)
Whether you agree with my positions or not, my point is that people too often tell you what they are paid to tell you and not what's true. Defense attorneys don't seek "the truth" or even "justice," they try anything they can to achieve an acquittal for their client. Doctors used to endorse tobacco.
It's our responsibility to use our judgment and explore the facts. I'm never convinced by mere passion (the scientific evidence is clear that there is no connection between vaccinations and autism, for example), not by position (Brian Williams, the former NBC news anchor, appears to be a pathological liar). I need to check things out.
I've always respected Bertrand Russell's insights, who observed, "Don't ever be sure of anything—not even if I tell you."
The human condition: Capture
When I was younger, my uncle, something of an iconoclast, asked one Christmas, "Why are you all taking hundreds of pictures? Do you really ever look at them again? Can't you remember what it was like?"
We all laughed, but he had a point. I've arranged my screen saver to show randomly all the photos I have on my computer, and sometimes I become mesmerized and have to tear myself away (I've put a timer on it so the screen goes dark eventually). But hard copy or digital, I don't think all that many people habitually look through the kibillions of photos being taken.
I marvel at concerts and sporting events at how many people are glued to their iPhones taking video and snapshots of the action, and missing most of it! There is no way that looking through the confines or any phone or camera is equivalent to watching the action live. Every year we watch dolphins heading for lunch off the Jersey beaches in the morning and, here in Nantucket, the seals cavorting at any time at all. A lot of people miss the fun—because they've run to fetch their camera or are seeking the right shot.
Seldom does life or nature pose for you.
We are intent on capturing what we see but with no real intent to use it later. Please don't tell me that photos on Facebook are interesting, because 99% of them are not. ("Here I am in front of the pyramids. Here I am on the bus. Here I am boarding the plane." There are photos of wounds and accidents.) The pursuit of the "selfie" is hysterical, the ultimate narcissism available anywhere, any time, even with an extension that might poke someone's eye out.
There have been wonderful events captured on film and digitally, and it's great to be able to see your kids when they were small or remember a pet. I understand special occasions (although not the event where the photographer has carte blanche to intrude, shove, and direct everyone's lives). What I don't understand is the need to capture the mundane and inane, the ordinary moments that just might mean more if we enjoyed them instead of trying to preserve them in the amber of photography.
There's a butterfly that's landed outside the window next to me, profiled against the Atlantic Ocean. It would make a fine shot, I suppose, but I'd rather enjoy the moment than go seek my camera. The longer I watch the real thing, the more special the moment.
A couple of years ago I saw peripheral flashes around both eyes and was afraid I may have detached retinas. The eye doctor told me that the flashes were simply the result of some glutinous stuff dissolving with age and were quite common. In fact, they tended to make detached retinas less likely. But he said to let him know if they got worse.
A week ago, the flashes suddenly started again as I walked about the house, in bright blue. I had never seen them so intense and colorful, and only on the right eye's periphery. I decided to look in the mirror to see if there were anything physically different about that eye.
In the mirror I saw that I had been walking around with my phone's headset after my last call, and the blinking blue light was its indicator that the battery was fully charged.
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Too many "experts" I know never played the game.