[13 min read ]
Diary of an artist, Sunday, July 19, 2020
Woke up 4:30 am
Today I publish two diary entries — from yesterday and today.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
Want to go back to the question of caring about the opinions of others.
Some people say that only psychopaths don’t care at all about the opinions of others (what other people think or say about them). They argue that if you’re not a psychopath you should at least care about the opinions of people you’re close to. As if you had a choice to be or not to be a psychopath!
Provided that we agreed on one definition of a psychopath and also on the notion that psychopaths don’t care about the opinions of others (with which I don’t agree — I think they do care about the opinions of people), I guess we would all agree that being a psychopath is not something you choose. You can’t choose to be or not to be a psychopath. You can’t opt out of having some mental disorder, can you? So when you actually are a psychopath then you don’t need advice on caring about the opinions of others (because according to this theory you don’t and you never will), and when you aren’t a psychopath then by definition (!) you care about some opinions of others (certain opinions of certain people), and thus you don’t need to be told / advised that you should at least care about the opinions of some people (those whose opinion should be important to you).
I want to take a closer look at it and write down what I think. I start this with the preconceived notion that it is not enough to divide people into normal and psychopaths (I mean who is actually “normal”?). And maybe the preconceived notion that psychopaths don’t care about the opinions of others is also wrong? I bet they care at least to some degree about the opinions of those who compliment them. I guess we all care to some degree about the opinions of those who compliment us. I wouldn’t say that being a psychopath is enough to not care about the opinions of others.
I mean I think this topic needs a lot more digging than merely stating something in a few words (which you probably heard from someone else, or read in some book).
My take people who say that they don’t care at all about the opinions of others lie. That’s my first argument.
I think that we as a species are programmed (or it happened to us through evolution — maybe “programmed” is not the right word) to care about the opinions of others. So whether we like it or not, we all always care about certain opinions of others (regardless of who they are). That’s my second argument.
If we didn’t care about the opinions of others at all we wouldn’t worry about not fitting in, as children we wouldn’t care if the parents gave more attention to our sister or brother, we wouldn’t try to impress a boy or girl, we wouldn’t try to make our parents / family proud, we wouldn’t give a shit about the reputation our family has, we wouldn’t feel embarrassed in certain situations (if we pissed ourselves for example), we wouldn’t care an iota about our social status, we couldn’t feel offended.
But most importantly, we wouldn’t need to tell ourselves that those are only the opinions of others and we don’t need to agree with those opinions. And we do it all the time. All those behaviors / feelings happen because we care about the opinions of others.
I would err on the side of saying that people who really don’t care about the opinions of others are like unicorns or something (rare as fuck) and there is not even a proper market for self-help books for those people. I would say that those people wouldn’t even read a book (because they don’t care what’s in it), plus how would they know that they need help — they don’t give a shit about anything. They’re like rocks.
I think the most common distinction is wrong. Most people argue that we should only really care about the opinions of those who are very close to us (our loved ones). That this should be the first and foremost distinction. If you heard something from a person who gives a shit about you and your life, care about his or her opinion, because that’s good for you. If you heard something from a person who doesn’t give a shit about you and your life (who doesn’t even know you), care not about his or her opinion, because that’s not good for you.
Have you noticed how almost all this advice on not caring about the opinions of others concerns the critique of you as a person or something you do. It almost never concerns the opposite of a critique of you as a person or something you do.
So the advice is more or less the following: If people say something bad about you, if they criticize or mock you, or if they belittle your achievements, or if they doubt that you can achieve something they know is your goal, then don’t listen to those people. They’re morons! But you will almost never hear the same advice in relation to something positive people say about you, your behavior or your work. If it’s positive, take it! There are no morons among those who compliment you. Turns out any of us can be a moron or not a moron in the eyes of the some people — it all depends on what you say about those people.
I think there is a very obvious inconsistency in how we look at what people think about us. If it’s some good stuff, then there is nothing wrong with feeding on it — and that’s precisely what the overwhelming majority of us do. And almost nobody will ever warn us that we shouldn’t feed on that. If it’s some bad stuff (and it comes from the same people), then it’s different. When it’s bad, we should start to be picky about it. We should divide people into categories and care only about the opinions of those in a special category (those who give a shit about us and our lives) and ignore all the rest.
Isn’t it ridiculous?
I think what could actually help would be dividing the things which people say to us into several categories, regardless of who the people who say those things are, and what their intentions are. Can you really know what the intentions of people are? Can you be 100% certain what they are? Maybe your assumption that a certain person has your well-being and best interests at heart isn’t correct? And also regardless of the manner in which the opinion has been offered.
Someone who actually doesn’t give a shit about us (let’s say that that’s the only interaction we have with this person) can write a hateful or inconsiderate comment, and it can so happen that hidden in it will be some of the best life advice we’ve ever been offered. Of course, we will not be able to take it immediately, but after a while we might come to the conclusion that the thing this person said wasn’t actually that bad. That there is actually some value in it. Or it can inspire you way more than the shit you have no problem with.
Let’s say there is a person who can’t be considerate, but whose observations about life are very often brilliant. What should you do with an opinion of such person? Ignore it? What if what this person said is worth more than all the other crap combined which people offered you?
Generally I think we should pay special attention to those things with which we don’t agree and which bother us in some way. Why? Because the shit with which we agree and which doesn’t bother us, we probably already know it.
I think that the most important distinction should be this person’s life philosophy. And we can usually learn something (sometimes even a lot) about someone’s life philosophy, even from a very short exchange / conversation. If this person’s life philosophy seems reasonable to me then I will give a shit about what this person has to say (about me and the way I live my life). If this person’s life philosophy seems unreasonable (if I don’t feel it / if I feel that it’s not mine and that it couldn’t be mine) then I will not give a shit about what this person has to say (about me and the way I live my life). If this person’s life philosophy is completely different than mine then I might give it a thought — consider what this person has to say (about me and the way I live my life).
I would also think about the type of the content. Was it an opinion, or advice, or thought, or idea, or warning, or remark? I think this distinction is very important.
I think we very often throw all things we hear from people into one giant bag labeled “opinions of others” and it’s not a good idea, because not all of it can be described as an opinion. Maybe it only looks like an opinion of someone but actually it is more of an advice, or idea, or a thought, or warning, or just a remark.
And my take we should never treat something which actually isn’t an opinion as it was an opinion. We should treat it as something which it actually is. Or if it’s doubtful, as something which it resembles the most. So if this comment resembles way more an idea we should treat it as an idea.
What are opinions? Opinions are when people say things like “this is good and this is bad”, “this is possible and this is not possible” (more often than not that’s an opinion), “this is worth it and this isn’t worth it”, “this is the truth and this is not the truth” (more often than not that’s an opinion), “you do it the right way, you do it the wrong way” (more often than not that’s an opinion), “this is reasonable, and this not reasonable”, “this is dumb and and this is not dumb”, “this exists and this doesn’t exist” (very often that’s an opinion).
All the rest (if the thing doesn’t look like something from the above menu) are not opinions. It’s something else. An advice, or idea, or a thought, or warning, or just a remark. And if it’s advice, or idea, or a thought, or warning, or just a remark then caring / not caring about it ceases to be important. We can choose to take it into consideration. We can give it a thought. We can let it inspire us. We can do many things with it. When it’s not an opinion, the whole debate about caring about the opinions of others (should we or should we not / to care or not to care) is irrelevant.
When we see something which isn’t an opinion but we interpret it as an opinion (and we want to apply to it the wisdom about caring / not caring about the opinions of others) then we make a big mistake.
Of course something which isn’t an opinion can be presented as an opinion (can sound as an opinion), so we should ask ourselves whether the thing we heard really was an opinion.
Anything which starts with “I think” has a very good chance of being an opinion, but we should check if it actually was an opinion, and if we’re certain that it was an opinion.
We should also check what was this opinion about? Was or was it not about us and what we do? Maybe it was an opinion about something we believe or do, and this person didn’t mean to judge us, and actually didn’t judge us.
I think the next important thing is the distinction between an opinion and a judgement (or opinion which is also a judgement and opinion which isn’t also a judgement). Judgement is much worse than a mere opinion. Anybody can have any opinion he or she wants, but it’s not until this person starts judging you or what you do that it starts to bother you. Thus I would say that judgements, not mere opinion are the things we should really deal with (decide whether or not we want to care about them). Opinions which are not aimed at sending you a concrete moralistic message, or which don’t ridicule (or approve of) your behavior or appearance are not judgements. They’re more like comments about the reality.
Also we should differentiate between someone’s judgement-opinion and mere name calling. Name calling can be equated with offering your opinion about a certain person or group. But, and this is crucial here, the mere fact that someone called you this or that doesn’t mean you are this or that. If someone says that you are a whore, does it mean you are a whore? No. It means that this person thinks that you are a whore. He or she sees a whore in you. This is his or her opinion (only an opinion). Which isn’t enough to turn you into a whore.
I think whenever we hear some comment from someone we should generally ask ourselves Does it mean it’s the truth about me / life / world? Who said it’s the truth about me / life / world? This is the first, easiest and very effective way to disarm someone’s comment about you or the thing you do. The second question should be Do I have to agree with that opinion? Is there an obligation to agree with everything this person says about me or what I do? The third question should be Does it really matter what this person thinks about me and what I do? (Based on what does this person say the things he or she says? — is it a habit / traditional or conventional way of thinking, jealousy, or what?).
And that’s how I arrived at the next thing. I think it’s also important to ask yourself in connection to what was this opinion formed and aired?
I think it is very important because the basis of an opinion can give us probably the best idea whether we should care about it or not.
People’s opinions can stem from a need to attack, counterattack, protect,
they can be signs of someone’s jealousy, or suffering or pain (this person is lacking / missing something and feels bad). They can also mean that this person desperately wants his or her judgement or worldview, or understanding of this or that, or his or her entire life philosophy validated by you (he or she needs you to be on his or her side as far as this or that is concerned), or at least he or she wants to see that you will not attack or ridicule his or her judgement or worldview, or understanding of this or that, or his or her entire life philosophy. It can also come from the need to contribute an idea or solution. Or it can come from this person’s desire to have it his or her way or from the need to steer you in a certain direction because this person has a concrete need of his or her own which he or she wants met.
And, of course, the judgements-opinions about which we shouldn’t care about (or with which we should be at least extra cautious) are the ones which stem from this person’s own needs, desires, or interests. If it’s evident that this person is driven by his or her own needs, desires, or interests (and clearly they are this person’s priority — and I think that more often than not we can figure it out quite easily) then we shouldn’t care about it at all. If it’s fifty-fifty we should half care about them, I guess.
Sunday, July 19, 2020
I don’t know if that’s an important observation but I publish it anyway.
Before interest there is no interest. I mean you can’t say that you always had interest in something. Well you can say it, but it’s ridiculous. Plus there are people in this world who have found interest in something which didn’t even exist when they were born. So they can’t say that they were always interested in this thing. Which means that it’s totally reasonable to say that no interests precedes interest. That’s how it always is, even in those who have found interest in a thing which already did exist when they were born. Newborn babies don’t have any interests besides having their most basic, most natural needs met.
Isn’t it a banal thing to say (that no interest always precedes interest)? Of course that’s what happened in each case when someone discovers some interest.
You can even start with no interest and then fall in love in something. So it’s not that only no interest precedes interests. No interest also precedes love for something. You can totally end up being passionate about the thing in which you initially had no interest. That’s precisely what happened each time when someone developed passion. It can’t be any other way. We will always be able to go back to the time when we had no interest in the thing in which we have interest today (or even in which we fall in love).
Having said that, I think it’s one thing to start something (get involved in something) even if you previously had no interest in this thing, but it’s another thing to stick to something in which you have no interest (I mean after you’ve tried it for a while and you feel that that’s not for you — you neither enjoy it, nor is it exciting for you). If you already know for certain that you have no interest in this thing, that you don’t enjoy what you do, that it doesn’t excite you, that you would rather do something else, or that you actually hate this thing, then it’s a bad choice to stick to something like that (even if you’re good at it). There is a huge chance you could be way better at something you actually enjoy doing (something else).
Stuff I’m currently reading:
Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short (on Scribd).
POPism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett (on Scribd).
Audiobook: Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937–1948 by Madeleine Albright (on Scribd). Didn’t finish it and stopped.
The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski (free PDF)
Audiobook: How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Ece Temelkuran (on Scribd)
Audiobook: Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62 by Frank Dikötter (on Scribd)
Audiobook: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry Strauss (on Scribd)
Kafka: The Early Years by Reiner Stach (on Scribd)
Music for this writing session: Frederic Chopin (on Spotify).