Truth vs Emotions

Truth is what is real and factual. Application of logic yields new facts, new understanding of truth.

But logic breaks where emotions rule.

We see this easily in betting games. The term “pot committed” comes from poker. A person’s reasoning and logic goes out the window when he has committed so much money in the pot that he disregards his actual chances of winning and keeps throwing money into an already losing proposition.

We see this in science where a scientist can become so emotionally committed to a theory that no amound of contrary facts will sway him. Witness the late Fred Hoyle and his commitment to his Steady State theory. Regardless of how much evidence pointed to a Big Bang or similar theory, he kept on insisting that the universe was in a steady state.

We see this so often than in politics. People get so committed to a certain ideology that their intellect has taken a permanent leave of absence.

And of course religion. Forget the facts, the Earth is 6000 years old. Because an old book says so.

Science owns the realm of facts and truth. Politics and religion should be confined to areas where certainty is elusive – like what solutions to apply to global warming or praying for a loved one’s life. But when science comes up with a definite answer to how we should mitigate climate change, politics should step aside and let the factual solution be applied. And when the doctor with scientific certainty prescribes the medicine that will save your wife’s life, you can still pray – but you should not reject the medicine. Only when there are uncertainties regarding the medicine, then it boils down to judgement, ideology, religion or hunch. But when there is certainty, let facts and logic prevail.

Facebook discussions are rampant with emotions and virtually devoid of logic. And the way you can see this is the incessant display of logical fallacies; Straw Man, Argumentum Ad Hominem, No True Scotsman, Appeal to Authority or other Red Herrings. And the way you handle it is to keep calm, remain on the subject, observe the facts, listen carefully and stay with logic.

Logic: The science or art of exact reasoning, or of pure and formal thought, or of the laws according to which the processes of pure thinking should be conducted; the science of the formation and application of general notions; the science of generalization, judgment, classification, reasoning, and systematic arrangement; the science of correct reasoning. [1913 Webster]

Excuse me!

Indignation, grumpiness, annoyance and aggravation, anger, fury and hate, worry and anxiety, fear and sadness, the silent treatment and bullying. These are all natural negative emotions. They are often easily explained. But are they justified?

Usually not. While there are occasions where it is rational to create any of the above mentioned emotions, they are few and far between. Given that you do in fact create your own emotions, blaming other for your creations is the fast track to lose control of your life. To regain control requires that you take responsibility for your own emotions.

Yes, people can treat you like shit. They can be rude, abusive and cruel. While you often cannot control what life dishes out to you, you can decide how you react to any situation. Like the apprentice asking his master fakir, “But Master, do you not feel the pain?” and the old man answered, “Of course I feel the pain. The trick is not minding the pain.”

Ask yourself is, “Does it help to be annoyed?”, “Does it help to worry?”, “Will it improve the situation if I get angry?” If it does help, then go ahead and be really annoyed, worry like hell or blow your top off. If it doesn’t help, then don’t give a fuck.

It’s easy enough to say this, but to live it requires lots of practice. Every shitty situation presents an opportunity to practice not creating an emotion that only adds negativity to the situation.

Celebrate improvements. If it takes you a bit longer before you get pissed, then that’s improvement. If it takes one more insult before you feel hurt, then you’re doing better. Keep practicing and you’ll keep moving toward more control of your life.

The motto: “Only do that which helps. Don’t do that which doesn’t help.

While negative emotions can be considered natural and easily explained, they shouldn’t be excused.

What to take responsibility for

When I coach people, the main positive step occurs when the person stops feeling responsible for what other people think or feel and starts taking responsibility for what he or she thinks and feels.

Taking full responsibility for one’s own thinking, feelings and actions is liberating. Further freedom comes from stopping the worrying about what others might think.

One creates one’s own thoughts and feelings. What one thinks and feels is a choice. Always – even when it doesn’t seem like it. To conquer one’s own thoughts and emotions is hard. But it is a worthwhile quest.

When I read this post to Anette, she asked if I should include some practical examples where this viewpoint would be benificial. Then she added, “…or maybe you should ask your readers for good examples?” And so I do.

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It’s the feeling

In my talk at HP Norway, I covered my history as a calculator enthusiast. I got my first calculator (a TI-57) when I was 13 and my first HP calculator (HP-41CX) a few years later. I started collecting as an adult, and in 2008 eighty-nine of my ninety calculators got toasted when the building where we had our offices burned to the ground.

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A couple of months before the fire, the Norwegian national TV interviewed me and showed my collection. Lots of people saw it. Shortly after the fire, the TV host Petter Skjerven came back to do a “part 2” where he asked me how I felt after the fire. We were standing in the ruins when I told him I felt great.

A couple of weeks before the fire, I had a dream where I had all HP-calculators ever made in mint condition. That saddened me – because the game was over. You see, the point about collecting the calculators, apart from actually using them, is to COLLECT – not to HAVE. So, I had 8 years of fun behind me when the fire struck. And then I had at least 8 years of fun ahead. It felt great. After that second show, people started sending me their old calculators. And now I am almost beck where I was. Except my HP-01 is hard to replace. And my HP-37E had the lowest serial number recorded. Priceless. Oh well. I started to rebuild my collection, and I have calcs now that I never had before – like the gifts I got from HP after my talk; an HP-70, an HP-25C and an HP-10. All rare items.

One important personal point I touched upon in my talk was how I am driven by feelings. The feeling for the unknown, the feeling of learning something new, of discovery, of the vast sea of interesting knowledge, the thrill of learning Einstein’s theory of relativity before I got my first calculator, the excitement of making a self-modifying program on a TI-59 that I borrowed from a friend of mine. The joy of synthetic programming on an HP-41. And the nerve wrecking feeling of reading aloud when I was in high school. The thrill of girls, of the first job, of travelling abroad, of meeting with interesting and amazing people. The emotions, the fun. This is what drives me. And collecting old calculators rejuvenates many tingling, captivating and entrancing rushes. I love it.

This a big reason why I make music, artwork, meet and talk to new people, travel, read, play, point my telescope to the stars and live life as I do. I am a feeling-junky. This is also why I blog.

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