Tag Archives: activism and politics

I’m Trying Not To Use The Word “Crazy” To Describe Things

A few weeks ago I read an article somewhere (I know, my citing abilities are incredible) about how using the word “crazy” to describe things was insulting to people who have a mental illness. The article  got my attention because I call everything crazy. If someone tells me something absurd I say, “That’s just crazy.” If I see a wild pattern on a shirt I say, “Look at that crazy shirt!” If my dog turns into a rabid, rage machine I say, “He just went crazy!” If someone asks me if I like chocolate I reply, “Are you crazy? I’m crazy about chocolate!”

So, yeah, me and crazy have a long history. I also use the word insane. A lot. Like, “That is insane.” I say that for everything. The teacher wants your kid to do twelve worksheets for homework? Well, that is just insane. The insurance company wants to raise the premium by $100, well, that is insane. The store was mobbed? It was insane. The kids pestering me every second: They drove me insane. You want to go to South America this summer? That would be an insane trip.

I know. It’s some weird shorthand I’ve developed to replace all of the other words. It’s kind of sad that this is what I have to show for my many years of education.

Why I am trying to stop using the word crazy

I’m not a bad person. I promise. I’m mostly good. I never even think about people with mental illness when I am using these two words.  Mostly I use “crazy” to describe things that seem extreme. I’d argue that I am using a different definition of the word crazy. I don’t use it to mean deranged, lunatic, or mad (words I found when looking up the definition of crazy). Ouch. That would be insulting.

But really, this is what I tell myself to justify my word choices. I’m not trying to be cruel or heartless, but It’s not up to me to decide what is hurtful to other people, so I have to pause. I have to think. I have to empathize. I mean, people used to call things retarded without even thinking about the implications. I’m pretty much doing the same thing with the word crazy. I have to wonder, would it kill me to use a different word? Would putting a little more effort into how I describe things be that much of an imposition? It’s important to me that people feel safe and comfortable around me. Choosing a different word seems a small price to pay for that comfort.

Besides, when it comes down to it, I use the words crazy and insane because I am lazy. I mean, I have a much bigger vocabulary than that. I could use any of the following words instead: foolish, silly, absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous, preposterous, farcical, laughable, risible, nonsensical, harebrained, cockamamie, half-baked, impracticable, unworkable, ill-conceived, senseless…

I could say I am passionate about chocolate. I could say my dog barked until his voice went hoarse because he was so angry that someone knocked on the door. Sure, it takes a little longer sometimes, but I could say all sorts of things instead of “crazy” and sound smarter doing it.

I’m working on that. Old habits don’t break easily. I have to stop mid-sentence sometimes and rephrase what I want to say. I forget too and an occasional “that’s just crazy” will slip out. I’m a work in progress. I am putting in the effort though so I hope that counts for something. I heard your complaint and I am trying to rectify the situation as best I can. One sentence at a time.

My daughter just had “crazy hair and sock day” at school. How cool would it be if next year they called it “cockamamie hair and sock day” instead? Or even just the simple version: Silly sock and hair day.

There are plenty of good options that don’t make people feel bad. I’m up for the challenge, how about you?

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Dear Facebook, Stop Trying To Sell Me What I Just Bought

Facebook is watching me. So is Google. So is the Government, apparently. I read the news. I see the Facebook statuses. I listen to the radio. So, now everyone knows I bought my husband some shorts. Everyone, now even you know. I bought some shorts! I bought some shorts!

Jim surrounded by shorts
How many shorts can one man wear?

I bought the shorts a week ago and ever since I have had ads in my stream, in my side bars, in my everything for the exact same shorts. Now, I could go on and on about privacy issues and how this is against our constitution, but I think I will leave that to better writers than I. Nope, instead, I am going to complain about how this is the worst marketing strategy ever. I have already bought the shorts. Three pair to be exact. It’s done. It’s over. I’ve been sold on the product, obviously. Showing me the exact same product every time I turn on the Internet is not going to make me buy more of the exact same product (unless they are 95% off and I lurve them so, so much). How many shorts can a person wear? My husband gets new clothes when the old ones are practically falling off his back. He’s not exactly a fashionista, which Google should know because according to my spam box Google reads my blog pretty regularly. Also, my every move is being tracked, so, seriously, they should know more about my families clothes preferences than I do.

Facebook should know better too. Don’t they pay marketing geniuses large amounts of money to set up algorithms and ad campaigns and all of that stuff? I mean, don’t they know if a person just bought shorts it might be better to try to sell them some T-shirts, some socks, maybe a few other essentials? Or maybe a vacation to wear those shorts on? Couldn’t this information they have collected be put to better use, I mean from a marketing perspective?

It amazes me that with all of the data collection and selling opportunities available to these marketing gurus (and big companies) that they still manage to get it so very, very wrong. I mean, if I buy a refrigerator online do they really think I will buy another one the next day and another one the day after that? I don’t think so. I mean I know very little about marketing, but even I know most people only need one refrigerator and just a few pair of shorts. Do the people buying these ads know their product is being marketed to someone who just bought said product and probably won’t buy that product again for another decade? Would they pay for those ads if they knew? I mean, I thought the point of these online ads was to target very specific people. Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe other people keep buying shorts day after day after day…and refrigerators too, but I doubt it.

Anyway, I can’t help but wonder, if the people and corporations trying to sell us stuff can get things this wrong, what’s the government going to do with all of my information? I mean, corporations have the money to attract the best, brightest and most talented employees out there, right? I am a bit concerned that the best they can do with all of the data they have collected about me (and trust me, I am on the Internet a lot) is to try to sell me the same old pair of shorts I bought last week, which to be completely honest, I am really tired of looking at (and they haven’t even arrived at my house yet). The algorithms need some work, obviously. So, what if the government’s algorithms are even less fine tuned or less accurate than Facebook and Google’s? That’s a little frightening to think about. In the big scheme of things, shorts are pretty inconsequential, but if the same technology is being used to determine who is a good guy and who isn’t, I think we might be in for a heap of trouble.

P.S. If you are reading this one Google spam-writer, please stop trying to sell me what I just bought. Pass it on to Facebook. Thank you.

 

 

Creativity Vs. Destruction

I was supposed to start my “Examining The Creative Mind” series today. Molly Field was going to enlighten us about her creative process by answering some interview questions I had sent her. She asked me to postpone publishing her contribution due to the Boston Marathon bombing. She wanted to observe a day of silence if she wasn’t going to be writing about what happened. I will publish her interview on Thursday instead.

I’ve struggled about what to say about this new violent incident, mostly because I haven’t recovered from the previous violent incidents yet. They are happening so often now. It scares me and it makes me sad and angry at the same time. I know many people are going through similar emotions. I am not sure I have anything new to add to the conversation or anything important to say. Just being silent felt like the best option, or at least the only option with any value. I know many other bloggers will be expressing their opinions and feelings about what has happened with a grace I don’t seem to possess today. I do feel compelled to say something that has been bothering me for a while now.

Last night I kept thinking about this class I took in my Master’s program. It was called The Psychology of Spirituality. It was an online class. There was only one other student in the class, his name was John and he was a philosophy professor. I knew him in real life too. We had a mutual friend and would often bump into each other at our mutual friends parties. We would get into huge philosophical debates and drink way too much beer as our arguments escalated into good-natured attempts at one-upmanship. Anyway, this class was the perfect forum for us to continue our debates and we were prolific in our writing. We were so involved in the class that I am sure it seemed like more than two people were contributing to class assignments. We argued about spirituality, “God”, and human nature.

In one section, near the beginning, we began what became a class long discussion on evil and destruction. As a psychology student, I truly believed that evil did not exist exactly and that most people were inherently good and striving for positivity. I believed, that people were evolving, that we were moving towards greater consciousness and goodness. My perspective was very humanistic in nature which was no doubt the result of my counseling classes and the influence of Carl Rogers. John, on the other hand was adamant that evil and destruction were necessary for life to continue and that evil was really a matter of perspective anyway. I just want to stop right here and say, arguing with a philosophy professor is a fool’s errand. Philosopher’s are trained to argue using logic. They are usually incredibly intelligent people. They have learned to think. John was smart and his arguments were solid. Look to nature he told me.

John informed me of many examples. Destruction is as much a part of life as creation is, he argued passionately. A forest fire clears out the dead wood so new growth can emerge. A Lioness catches her pray and feeds it to her cubs. This is destructive and evil behavior, isn’t it? Yet, it is also part of life. Without this destructive evil, life might not exist at all. John scoffed at my appeals for peace and growth towards a more loving and empathic society. He directed me to read The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche. He told me we all were trying to gain power and dominance over each other. That what looks like destruction to one person is creation to another. That a mad man with a gun who shoots a bunch of people is just becoming more of who he is, embracing his will to power, and that his act is one of creation from his perspective. The major point was that real death was what happens when we lose the will to power.

All of John’s arguments make sense on paper and in the comfortable seat of a philosophy class, or even at a party where two people are feeling smart for arguing about existentialism and contemplating what it means to be human. Ideas and theories can be thought about in the abstract, but they don’t always make as much sense in your real life. These arguments feel more like excuses when you think about children being killed and people being murdered in a movie theater, or when you read about children being raped and killed by adults.

While I was in the Psychology of Spirituality class I eventually conceded the argument even though it never sat quite right with me. At the time I just couldn’t come up with an argument as clever as his was to refute his points. I mean, he had Nietzsche in his corner. All I really had, was a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I willingly agree that some destruction is needed for creation. We will tear down a building to erect a new one. We will likely run print media out of business with the Internet and technology we are inventing. Men wearing helmets and team jerseys will break each others bodies in order to win a football game. Destruction and creation are two sides of the same coin. Humans do have a will to power and to dominate. I spend time trying to gain power by writing this blog. I have the urge to paint something that will move people or improve my financial status. It’s true. I dig in the earth and uproot weeds so I can grow my tomato and squash plants. I steal my chickens eggs and eat them. I create and destroy daily. I am Shiva. We all are. At least, that is how it seems.

I thought about this yesterday while I was in my garden, avoiding the news coverage because I couldn’t handle the images and the pain resulting from the Boston Marathon bombing. I thought about all of the people I know who spend most of their days creating something. They go to work, they make food, they exercise their dogs, they paint, they have children, they volunteer to help people less fortunate than they are, they write compelling articles trying to change the hearts and minds of the people at large. They create life. Most of the people I know are destructive on accident or as a by-product of trying to do something good. They contribute to pollution by driving to work so they can earn enough money to buy food for their family (food that is likely a product of some other types of destruction). None of us can escape the circle of creation and destruction, this is true. I see it with my own eyes.

So, why does the argument bother me in the pit of my stomach so much? I don’t have an articulate answer to give you. I just look at these violent incidents and wonder where is the will to power exactly? Where is this kind of destruction making room for new creativity? The destruction seems useless. A man shoots a room full of people and then kills himself. I find no perspective that explains how this type of dominance and destruction results in anything beneficial for the murderer. I’ve never been a big believer in the idea of good and evil from a religious perspective, but I think destruction for no purpose is probably the real definition of evil. A lioness kills a zebra and eats it. She doesn’t kill it without purpose or benefit. A forest fire results in new, healthier growth. How does killing a bunch of people and then killing oneself benefit anyone involved?

These acts of violence in our country are just death. There isn’t any redeeming value in the act. Bombing a marathon doesn’t serve any higher purpose either. It just breaks people. It tears their limbs, it breaks their hearts, but there really isn’t anyway to see it as a creative act, is there? Sure, there will be stricter rules and more police, and maybe dogs sniffing for bombs in public activities like this for a while, but is that really creating something? Does new growth come from these acts of destruction? Some will point to the parents of Newtown who are working so hard to change the gun laws in our country as an example of creation as a result of destruction. They might be right, but I am compelled to say the person who causes this destruction is absent from the creative process all together. The victims are creating meaning for the death of their loved one and working hard to change things for the better. They are turning destruction into creation, but I would argue they were probably doing that already in their lives. I wonder, would this mean that some people are only destructive? It’s seems impossible to be creative without destruction, but is it possible to be destructive without creating? Would that be the definition of evil? Is evil necessary?

I am not really a philosopher. I don’t have a logical mind. Anyone who has taken a math class with me can vouch for that. I often make decisions on a gut feeling. My body recognizes patterns and incongruities much faster than my mind does. I operate at an intuitive level. So, here I am, years later, still mulling over an argument I had with a philosophy professor. I am still unable to formulate an opinion in a philosophical, logical way. All I have is that nagging feeling in my stomach that something about this argument doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not religious, but I think of myself as spiritual. I still operate under the fundamental belief that most people do things for some kind of greater good and that as a whole, the human species is evolving into one with greater compassion, empathy and responsibility toward life. I still believe that real power does not come from physical violence and domination, but from a place of love and grace. I just haven’t really found a way to reconcile these beliefs with all of the bad things that happen in the world. I can’t decide if these people are really evil. I can’t decide if these acts contribute to the creation and development of humanity, but my gut says they don’t.