A Letter To Myself [Op. Ed]

by Chandler W.

This is a bit of an abstract piece – it’s not intended to caress, or even be accepted by most readers – it’s meant to provoke thought.”

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I’ve given up on politics. And on philosophy. And even a little on statistics.

The problem is in the axioms. I don’t write this piece to be poetic, or flowery, or entertain anyone. I’m seriously fed up with people shouting, badmouthing, guilt-tripping, and shoving each other out of the way to satiate some primitive desire to justify their own belief to other people, and, how I see it, mostly themselves. Regardless, don’t let my emotion stand in the way. I guess I’m just a little upset at my perception of decision making.

Statistics. Philosophy, I might have said even a week ago. Those will solve our problems, because they are built on the concrete foundation of logic. But even those are built on axioms. It’s okay to use this distribution here. People are fundamentally good. The ends justify the means. This is the right metric to use. On and on and on, we find that statistics can’t justify our statistics, and philosophy can’t justify our philosophy, all because they need a leg to stand on. The Carnot engine of logic still needs fuel, and so far the only thing that fits in the tank is whatever we feel is right, not what we can show. Logic is the perfect void that can handle any physical experiment, but humankind still can’t decide what to start with.

Growing up in a primarily conservative home in a primarily liberal city (feel free to correct me at any point, and run off with your upset), I’ve received a bizarre flurry of emotional biases, ideas of what’s necessary or even important, and unsupported concepts. “Oh,” you say, “but I am a master of argument/genius at mathematical modeling/political aficionado/generally okay decision maker. I’ve read these papers, and wrote my PhD/lifelong thesis on what you disagree with.” Yet – forgive my ignorance – how are you certain? Sure, you can spend a lifetime fitting distributions, crying wolf, tearing at the edges of reality, cherry-picking papers and ideas or even trying to get a fair view. Still, there will always be someone just as qualified, however you define it, that disagrees.

Let me draw an analogy. I love computer science (don’t ask why). We, as humans, are individual processing systems (unsupervised classifiers, for the technical among us) that for some reason love to say “that is wrong” and “that is right.” There happen to be a lot of us.[citation needed] We tend not to all agree on things.[citation needed] And, assuming there is a good way and a bad way to manage things, we are all trying to approximate it. We don’t agree. We sometimes have a good amount of common ground, but often end up mentally clumping around others that agree with us and fracturing our holistic view of the world. Do something for me today – go talk to someone, and listen to them. No matter what they say, just listen. Better yet, go give someone a hug.

I write this paper not to convince you, oh omniscient reader. It is not okay to convince people of things using English. Or any language for that matter. Why? Axioms, axioms! Do not listen to me to believe me! Only let my words call back to the last argument (be that televised or personal) you listened to, where you thought one party was “unintelligent” or “evil” because, well, their axioms didn’t line up with yours. Are you right? If you believe you are, why are you right? I’m not saying everyone is fundamentally wrong (that would be baseless and rather insane) – but what is it that is so immutable and universal about every one of your core postulates that makes them 100% absolute – can you even state what they are? More importantly, what can make them so important as to disregard another human being? I don’t question to say “you’re wrong” (huge pet peeve of mine) but more to encourage introspection. I certainly can’t name every belief I hold, and I doubt I’m an anomaly in that sense. I get upset. I ignore other people. I’m human. You are too – don’t forget to have patience with yourself. Regardless, it is up to you, whoever you are that receives these words in succession and rejects or accepts them, to ask these questions – I am certain few others can do it for you.

So what is there to do? Dear reader, keep learning. Be patient. Don’t forget to smell the roses. Listen to people. Build relationships. Don’t close the hatch before you’ve gotten in all the information you can.

I recognize that my “argument,” if you want to label it as such, may appear to have many self-contradictions. I make decisions with varying importances based on all kinds of random biases daily despite this issue. Who even says that, as humans, we work with axioms at all, or even have core beliefs? Philosophy like this can wane impractical if at all true, but what I want can be measured easily. Put a microphone in a room. Place a headset on. Listen for consensus. You may hear it. Ignore it and listen for someone listening back.

Be that person.