Past Midway Ramblings on Business & Life

More Than a Book

When we say an object is in the same place it was before, we mean, it hasn’t moved relative to some other things, but it is definitely not in the same exact place.

In fact, nothing is ever in the same place it once was, including you.

For Example, Let’s Find My Book

Suppose I ask my lovely wife (Sofie),1 “Have you seen my book?”

A seemingly simple question, to which she might reply, “It’s on the table.”

A reasonable answer, and all that is required for me to find my book, assuming it’s there.2

Thanks for the help.

[Author’s Note: the next 9,000+ words of random tangents, asides and footnotes simply elaborate on this two-sentence, nine-word dialog with my wife. That really is all there is here… twists, turns and the detours of thinking out loud.]

This minimal exchange sufficiently bridges the chasm between my knowledge void and Sofie’s knowledge base, at least for the immediate concern of finding this book… and what once was lost shall now be found.3

However, the underlying cognitive processes required to complete this most basic exchange are astonishingly complex.

We’ll return to this idea that things-are-not-in-the-same-place-they-once-were, but first, let’s detour to consider the miraculous fundamentals of this short conversation in more detail.

Ignoring the Most Basic Building Blocks of Thought

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s ignore the most fundamental cognitive constructs required for this conversation with my wife about the location of my book, things like:

  • we have each learned how to vocalize – a magical transmission of thought, cast from one to another by invoking strange resonate vibrations with our body parts, which in turn excite the air particles around us, encouraging these particles to bump into each other and eventually, nudge ever-so-gently against the inner ear of our spouse. How romantic.
  • we both can hear and comprehend the guttural utterances of the other.4
  • we both possess language processing skills – an entire, marvelous construct itself.
  • we both know the other is capable of the same kind of speech, hearing and processing, including that we speak and understand a common language (in this case, English… or perhaps Swedish).
  • we both understand how to develop basic thought structures.
  • we are amenable to communicating at all. It is my understanding that some couples, sometimes, are not entirely receptive to conversation, at least not with each other.5
  • we both know what an object is, and specifically what a book is, and what books generally look like, categorically.
  • we can encode images (like a book) into memory such that we might subsequently retrieve them.
  • that Sofie should even desire to help me find my book at all, because maybe she just doesn’t feel like it. Or maybe in helping me, she sacrifices something more urgent within her immediate priority set.

That’s something to consider. Possibly, in that moment, she was preoccupied putting out a kitchen fire. This is a rather unusual example (and would leave you wondering why I am still looking for a book rather than helping extinguish the fire). But let’s say there is something more pressing for her to do.

Of all the things we might say, do, or think, how can we possibly know what is most pressing or important in any given moment?

We can’t.

So, we continually survey the field of possibilities, estimate their importance, and rank-order them by immediate priority.

OK. Let’s think about that for a moment…

Priority Functions

We must possess some basic brain function, which I will aptly name priority-urgency-scoring&ranking-of-our-most-necessary-immediate-next-tasks (f), that continually runs in an infinite loop in the background of our minds.

This task priority function must quickly score and rank the relative importance of things we might do next (for those things we had not planned to do), to determine what we in fact should do next… or should be doing now and in the near-vision-space as now bleeds into the next incremental moments.

While we are alive, I suppose the mental loop looks something like this (as a computer programmer might read it):

WHILE (alive==1) {

ftime(score, options)

}

The priority function’s sole job is to score and rank possible activities from available tasks we might perform at any given moment, with consideration for the urgency and logical outcomes for some options, balanced against our basic desire to stay alive and our unique proclivities to perform certain tasks over others. Sometimes the desired task is to do nothing, often the default task.6

The output of this function, over time, would likely reveal we have unusually long periods of complete boredom, interspersed with some random blips and spikes of various magnitudes. We know this intuitively because the day-to-day of normal life isn’t exactly the movie you would pay to see… just the highlight reel please.

Generically, the function’s output looks like this:

ftime(score = X, [equivalent urgency ranking], [suggested action])

Here’s a hypothetical series of outputs from this priority function as it unfolds over time:

f1(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

f2(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

f3(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

.

.

.

f47,456(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

f47,457(score = 56, concerning, consider options)

f47,458(score = 7, just kidding… false alarm… thought I heard something rustle in the leaves… do what you want… but pay attention at least a little more than normal… just in case)7

.

.

.

f50,000(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

f50,001(score = 0, nothing urgent, do what you want)

.

.

.

f3,078,481(score = 98, Holy crap!, run like hell or punch someone in the face… your choice… but make it quick, otherwise alive=’0’)

This function must determine the hierarchy of the tasks we attend to, or intend to attend to, moment-by-moment. How else could we establish the priorities of our actions and event sequences when unexpected events unfold in real-time?

I’m not saying this function works perfectly for all of us, or even optimally, just that it must exist to order our near-term life decisions, especially in surprise situations. Something must trigger us to act, or react, or prevent us from reacting.

Clearly, we expect some tasks, like fire suppression, might take precedent over other tasks, like finding a book. If this priority function didn’t continually run in the background of our thinking, we might choose random activities like looking for lost books, while the house burns down.

To summarize, deep within our thinking, resides some function of on-going thought to help us order our actions. Although interesting, we’ll ignore this too.8

Recall, we are still talking about the basic things we will ignore.

Even if we disregard the mountain of rudimentary root skills mentioned in the bullet points above – the basic learned functions and elemental concepts required for this exchange to find my book (and the requisite understanding that the other person has also acquired these same aptitudes) – there are still higher-level processes, and more complex neurology at work here… the subroutines of thinking (not fully-baked frameworks of thinking, not fully-contrived existential thoughts and not fully-developed scientific theories and hypotheses… just small subroutines designed to do one thing… and to do it quickly).9

This is where we will camp for the next few sections, discussing some of these required algorithms to help me find my book… before we return to my original premise – that nothing is in the same place it once was.

What Item?

Based on my “have-you-seen-my-book?” question, Sofie also needs to infer exactly which book has hid itself from me.

Her first logical inference might be the book I am currently reading… except I often read multiple books concurrently, so this doesn’t completely narrow it down. Knowing this about me, she must consider further. In doing so, Sofie might surmise I am trying to locate the book she most recently saw me reading. Or, perhaps the book she most recently spied in an unusual-book-kind-of-place.10 Hence, why I haven’t found it.

Aside 1.0

This idea of noting when something is out-of-place surfaces more frequently with items like reading glasses and car keys.

At our house, keys are stored in a traditional Swedish-style, troll-painted, key box near the front door, presumably to keep them from getting lost.11 It’s called a nyckelskåp (literally translated: key cabinet). Clever.

Sub-Aside 1.1

Here’s a picture of our nyckelskåp.

Most people in the U.S. would see a disturbing monster, surely frightening to a small child. “Why on earth would you have this on the wall in your house?”

To a Swede, these trolls are nostalgically cute.

It’s still growing on me.

End Sub-Aside 1.1

Anyway, if one of us notices a set of car keys laying around the house, say in a bedroom, it resonates as odd and a mental note is made, albeit fuzzy, because at the time, we were thinking about something else. Or, we were thinking of nothing specific at all, which is also important because this allows our deeper meditations and life-theories to surface without interruption by our intentionally-conjured thoughts, obstacles to the more profound thinking our brain undertakes for us in its spare time.12

Sometime later, the question, “Have you seen my keys?” summons a faint memory from earlier in the day, now foggier. The response is something like, “Yeah… I saw those somewhere unusual. Where was that?”

Okay. That’s not so helpful.

But it’s only the start. What follows is a series of random guesses of where the keys might have been seen, coupled with a substantial degree of uncertainty, denoted by the elongated version of the word “No”.

“Maybe I saw them in the kitchen… Nooo.”

“Wait. Maybe it was in the closet…,” eyes squint, a reflex that attempts to bring an opaque memory into focus.

“Nahoooe. It wasn’t there either.”

Meanwhile, the person looking for keys trails off, realizing the value of this dialog-becoming-monologue is questionable.

Raise your hand if this happens at your house too. We can’t be the only ones having this conversation.

The interesting point here – this is much of the richness of life. Not looking for car keys per se, but the small interactions like these with another. Beautiful micro-connections accumulated over time inform our impressions of one another.13

Through this, I have learned Sofie is continually pleasant in demeanor and helpful, to me and to everyone else.

You can put your hand down now.

End Aside 1.0

Basic inferences that answer questions like “Which book?”, require functions of thought to generate the initial assumptions that allow us to determine (probabilistic guess)14 which specific book someone is trying to find.

These subroutines of thought compute so quickly, we scarcely realize our minds grind through them. Astonishing, when you think about it.

Memory Scan

In addition to understanding which book, Sofie must also scan her memory for recent sightings of said book. Because I have no favored reading spot, the book surely migrates around the house. Therefore, the last visual recollection of the book’s location is most useful to increase the probability of correctly identifying the book’s current location, as opposed to where it was seen yesterday or last week.

To perform this task, not only must Sofie be able to categorize specific objects (like a book) in memory, she must also timestamp these memories chronologically, for temporal recollection.

Because Sofie is exceptionally gifted visually (like in an unreal way), she is often able to retrieve the geospatial, time-sequenced pictures from her recent memory with ease, much to my amazement, because I cannot.

Aside 2.0

While we are near this topic of visual memory and mental storage, here’s something unusual, I think.

My visual memory is severely underdeveloped. At best, I can conjure up basic images, still pictures of a suggested object, like an apple, for example. But maybe not sometimes. It takes concerted effort, and the mental photo vanishes in under a second. So, I only have brief photos, and a scarcity of those.15 No video. I assumed this is because video, essentially a sequence of photos, requires considerably more storage capacity (photos, in turn, require more storage than audio-only). However, it seems others can think in vivid mental imagery.

I only recently discovered many people can “replay” video transcripts of events within their mind’s eye, at least short clips. Well, that’s hardly fair. Can you replay video memories or are you stuck with just still photos, or nearly no imagery, like me?

End Aside 2.0

We have now established a great deal of mental capacity is required to decide which specific book has lost itself16 and to recall the last place it was seen – the best indication of the book’s current residence.

Relative Location & Scale

Once the correct book has been identified, and the last-seen location retrieved from Sofie’s most recent memory, she then needs to communicate this location with a relatively short phrase that helps me find the book quickly, a phrase with just the right amount of specificity, omitting extraneous details. This is more difficult than we might at first imagine.17

To indicate a location efficiently (meaning, some phrase requiring less time to say than to walk over, grab the book herself and just hand it to me), Sofie must make some assumptions about the object I want in relationship to its surroundings in an appropriate scale that I might find it with ease. Further, she must also make some assumptions about what I know and where my knowledge overlaps with her knowledge… specifically, that we both know of the table and where it is, relative to where we are.

If you’ll recall, Sofie said the book was “on the table”. By this, she means, the same table where it was previously when she last saw it.

For this to be useful, I must also know which table she is referring to and where that table is, relative to my current location. And I do. Sofie must also know that I know this, for this communication to be effective. Fortunately, she knows I know this because we know each other like that.

She knows this. I know this. She knows I know this. Green light. This might work.

In this example, providing a location for the book in relation to the table is a good answer. But alternatively, she could have said,

“It’s on the property,” which is only incrementally useful.18

Or, she could have answered, “It’s next to the pencil and paper.”

This might also be true, but less useful, in that pencils and paper tend to be in abundance – until you need one. They also move about more than tables. That is, they are less stationary.19

Fortunately, tables don’t move around much in our house20 nor are there many of them, also an important point Sofie’s brain pre-parsed before answering my question.

Since Sofie supposes we both hold these same assumptions (about which table, where that table is and how many tables we have), which we do, she concludes “on the table” should suffice as minimal viable directions for me to ascertain the book’s location within my ability to retrieve it. And this is also a key point…

Deciphering Intent

The idea that I am looking for my book that I might retrieve it, is an assumption Sofie makes before she even begins to construct her initial string of algorithms that help formulate her answer.

Her brain first determines this is an accurate presumption. Otherwise, she would echo the answer, “Yes. I have seen your book,” and be done with me, turning her attention back to what she was doing previously, which was, anyway, more important than what I was doing.21

This literal answer, “Yes. I have seen your book.”, would logically satisfy the question “Have you seen my book?”, but without further elaboration about the book’s location and perhaps an estimation of when she last saw the book, it wouldn’t really be that helpful, would it?

She must also infer I am asking for help to find my book and I’m not just curious if she has literally seen the book at some vague time in the past… because doesn’t the cover look nice and all that.

Initial Assumptions

We call these initial considerations “assumptions” – the inputs we must logically summon and insert into the functions of thinking that proceed and subsequently process our thoughts.

We formulate these base assumptions so quickly, it would be forgivable to think these preliminary assumption-forming algorithms do not exist, but they must. In fact, the evidence that thought-assumptions are considered internally in real-time continually, albeit very quickly, is best observed when our assumptions prove faulty. This throws us for a loop.

Bewilderment surfaces when an outcome differs from our expected logic flow.

To have an expectation, is to say our thoughts precede and unfold in front of our actions and conversations.

Brief bewilderment must mean reality differed sufficiently from our expectations, based on our assumptions.

Chocolate donkey.

You weren’t expecting that, were you?

An unexpected outcome may only exist if we first held some preliminary expectation, or at least some general expectation, about the natural flow of speech and logic, a predictor of what might come next.

These front-runner thoughts forge ahead of our dialog with another person continually producing assumptions (and sometimes ahead of our own thinking as well, which can lead to embarrassment). It’s the high-volume, lean manufacturing of thought, as if our minds lay tracks about six feet in front of us. Occasionally, our conversational counterpart throws the junction switch, and our last-laid tracks prove two meters in the wrong direction. We are caught off-guard and mentally derail, briefly.

A surprise revelation that differs from our initial (faulty) assumption is a brand of humor, the second-best kind in my view (behind irony). It is the punchline to the joke you were not anticipating because your brain assumed a different, more expected path, which proved directionally incorrect.

The unexpected twist that suddenly forces our mind to deviate from the expected outcome, makes us laugh, although, I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps the surprise is refreshing, like this exchange:

Aside 3.0

During a family dinner, when my son (Soren) was in 5th grade, I asked him, “Hey Soren, did you have fun at school today?”

“Not really, but there was one thing fun,” he replied.

“What was that?”

“We had a fire drill.”

“Did they tell you in advance it was a drill?”

“No.”

“Then how did you know it was a drill and not a real fire?”

“Because,” he squinted at me as if this should be obvious, “we went… back into the building.”

That makes sense.

Soren’s logic was sound. We don’t usually go back into burning buildings. But the point in time we placed ourselves in the storyline differed. We held different assumptions. I chuckled.

We often jump straight to the expected content, based on context, because our brains are exceptionally astute at deciphering the intent of another, most of the time. But sometimes, it pays to clarify assumptions, as my kids did in the following exchange (documented some years ago, ages 11 and 8 at the time).

My daughter Svea suggested, “Daddy, let’s all go to the park and have an electronic-free day today.”

Soren replied, “Wait, which kind of free do you mean? Free like you can do it (for free) or free like you CAN’T do it?”

“S-o-r-e-n!… free like you CAN’T do it!”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, and if we see you doing it, we will be giving out consequences,” Svea warned.

It was smart of Soren to ask for clarification before agreeing to the terms & conditions.

End Aside 3.0

Where things get interesting (often comical, sometimes tragic) is when we think we have properly decoded intent, but instead, we have mangled or maligned it – a misunderstanding.

Faulty assumptions and mangled intent can produce humor… or tragedy and heartache.

Shaping Ourselves with Thought

Our default assumptions also shape our thinking.

As we formulate our thoughts, primarily by what we choose to dwell on, we create permanent thought-records within ourselves that continue to shape how we think and how we view the world.

Trace elements of everything we have ever thought, everything we have been exposed to, everything we have done and everything that has been done to us, reside within us, informing our subsequent thoughts and behaviors, with varying half-lives of influence.

Some are front-and-center in the theater of our mind and greatly impact our worldview. Some lurk in the shadows. Some are on full display. Some are on a slow decay, with dwindling influence. Others are buried deep within the substrate of our thinking, firmly planted knee-deep in quicksand, unbeknownst to us and to those around us. But there they reside, continually filtering our thoughts and shaping our thinking.

Motives & Incentives

Anyway, back to my book, which I still haven’t found…

To be helpful, Sofie must, somewhere in her thought process, determine my most likely intention from all possible intentions and conclude I must want to retrieve my book for some purpose, probably to read it, which is often a good assumption about a book.22

In addition, Sofie likely scans her own incentives to ascertain if she wants me to find the book before her. Maybe she was planning to read it herself, in which case, she might invoke the You-Snooze-You-Lose rule.23 In this case, her answer might have been, “Well, whoever finds it first…”

…and then I must succumb to the idea that I will be reading a different book for the evening.

But Why?

More broadly, we might wonder why I am searching for this book at all.

What is it about this book that I should want to read it with enough interest that I am willing to search for it? Or any book? Or anything?

Yeah, why do we search for anything?

Presumably, we search to find. Searching without the twin goal of finding seems pointless, even if the ultimate finding is that we extract meaning from the search itself, which is often the case, in retrospect.

What is it that gives us this desire to find? What is it we are ultimately searching for?

And from where does this fundamental desire to find originate?

Questions like these lead us to deeper water where our feet no longer touch the bottom. We swim near the surface to breath, but the water below is of unknown depth.

Responses to a series of implicit Why questions unfold something like this, at least for me.

I want to search for my book, that I might find it, that I might read it, that I might learn from its contents, because I desire to have that knowledge accumulate within me, that I might categorize and assimilate it within my own mind along with other knowledge I have gained from others and from my own life experience thus far, that it might shape and hone my thinking, that I might combine those thoughts with my other stored thoughts, that I might have new ideas and perhaps a measure of wisdom, that they might be implemented and useful to me and perhaps to others as well, that I might contribute, at least incrementally, to the advancement of civilization, that we might benefit together, including future generations, that I might be a participant and a minor co-creator in the unfolding of the progress of the world.

Deep water now.

Final Why?… because it is how we are wired.

And therein lies the depths of what we do. This is about as far as I can go down the Why path without circling back on myself.

We are fundamentally wired to want to participate as co-habitants and co-creators in the unfolding of the world.

This desire is beyond our mental capacities. It seems hard-coded into our very nature, into our physical bodies, our nervous system, our organs, and that double helix we call our DNA, our neural networks and synapse connections, within our deepest desires – into the whole of our being.24

Why else would we do anything at all? What would motivate us to create anything beyond that which is required for our basic sustenance, besides the avoidance of pain and the shear gain of micro-pleasures, and perhaps a basic desire for comfort?

And why do we gain self-worth or a sense of peace when we co-create? Because we are on a mission? Because it imbues purpose and meaning? Purpose for what?25

These are deep and important questions, and well beyond the scope of this piece… as if there is a scope here.

Returning to My Original Premise – About Objects in Motion

After concluding Sofie in fact wants to save a wretch like me, and help me find the book, in addition to all the required thought processes outlined above, we must also layer this notion that the book is almost certainly not exactly in the same place where it was before, but nevertheless, “on the table” is close enough.

Suppose the book is, in fact, placed precisely where it was before, in relation to the table… and the table is exactly where it was before, relative to the floor. Then we expect the book to be exactly where it was. But it isn’t.

Maybe the table is in a recreational vehicle and the whole vehicle is moving down the road.26 In this case, even the floor is not close to where it used to be, relative to the nearest town, but it is still located generally as expected in relationship to the RV. We both intuitively, and mutually, understand this.

But suppose the earth is rotating on its axis and simultaneously rotating around the sun, as it is. The RV is no longer where it used to be relative to the sun. And suppose the solar system is translating through the galaxy, as it is. And the galaxy is rotating and traversing through space as well. In this case, the book on the table, in the RV, on the earth, is no longer where it used to be, even relative to the cosmos.

The point is,

An object is never where it used to be, nor are you. Not even close.27

Our communications are only sensical if we describe the location of something relative to its traveling cohorts,28 because an object only remains near to those things that journey with it.29

In Summary

The brain, the amazing instrument it is, immediately interprets the use-case for my question, “Where is my book?”. And Sofie is able, like the rest of us, (OK, better than the rest of us) to recollect that object’s historical location in space and time to provide a quick answer appropriately scaled relative to other objects traveling with it.

And here’s the kicker…30

Regardless of the accuracy of Sofie’s answer, regardless of how close I am to the target, if the book does not physically move as my eyes scan across it, even though it might be bright shining as the sun, Sofie will still need to walk over and hand it to me… and wonder how I am still alive.31


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FOOTNOTES:


  1. And she is truly lovely.
  2. And it will be. Because Sofie somehow remembers things like that.
  3. Amazing Grace – a poem written by John Newton in 1779. Some 56 years later (1835), the poem was paired symbiotically with the melody we now associate with it. The pentatonic structure textures the poem and imbues greater depth and meaning. Perhaps this lends to the poem-song’s cultural longevity.

    John Newton died in 1807. Consequently, he would never know the enduring popularity and cultural gravity of his poem. It is also amazing grace that a former slave ship captain would pen the poem that would later become the emblematic spiritual hymn of those enslaved.

  4. How sweet the sound.
  5. Thus far, Sofie has managed to at least fain interest in what I have to say (that she is even listening is another basic assumption I make). She is perpetually gracious in suffering through my ramblings. Speaking of rambling, this reminds me of a story that perfectly illustrates this point… I have a friend whose brother was visiting from out-of-town some years ago. Apparently, the brother was exceptionally shy, or at least very quiet. He rarely spoke. Simultaneous to the brother’s visit, my friend’s sister-in-law was also hanging out with them (his wife’s sister). In contrast, she was an extrovert. At some point, the sister-in-law couldn’t take the brother’s extreme silence any longer and decided to go rogue. Just to get any reaction from him at all, she grabbed his hand and placed it on her breast, much to his surprise… and to the surprise of everyone else. It was so awkward, everyone had a good laugh, I am told. I wasn’t there. I don’t recall how they said the brother reacted, but as this story was told to me, I replied, “Why doesn’t that ever happen to me?” Without hesitation, my friend’s wife said, “Because you talk to damn-much.” They then enjoyed a great couple-moment, laughing heartily at my expense. This rambling story has nothing to do with the topic at hand… which is why it so succinctly illustrates my point… about rambling… and Sofie suffering through it… as do you, now, as well… in a footnote… of all places. Thanks for reading.
  6. Possessing a default task of “do nothing” can be problematic, if habitual. It is certainly something we each must contend with, through the continual discipline of our thinking and actions, if we are to make something of our lives. For now, we will pretend we know what that means, even if we don’t really, with any real certainty.
  7. If our priority function consistently produces prolonged urgency scores of zero, we might call this a dull life. Or, maybe it’s an indication we are naïve or even oblivious.

    Conversely, if our priority function consistently produces prolonged and elevated urgency scores, we label this anxiety or perhaps PTSD. Maybe this is warranted, if we are in a constant state of heightened awareness due to concerning inputs from our surroundings. Or maybe we are hyping ourselves up, creating our own faux-inputs from within, thereby generating a positive feedback loop of the negative sort.

    If we are not careful, we can blow-up our priority functions with our own thinking. Wait, did you hear that noise? I think it came from the closet.

  8. I recognize it is problematic to state we will ignore something after writing several paragraphs about the thing we are to ignore.

    Ignore, in this sense, means it is not its own book, but probably could be.

  9. There are 90 words in this sentence. I know… someone needs an editor.
  10. Commonly referred to as “misplaced”.
  11. “Near the front door” is a handy place to keep keys because, curiously, that’s where we most frequently need them, being the very location where we transition from inside to outside. Coincidentally, this is also where doors find their ultimate existential purpose.
  12. How many original ideas might we have lost by thinking too much, by not affording our minds spare time? Do we stifle and repress our deepest, unconscious intellect by attending neural activity to react almost exclusively to immediate inputs from our surroundings? Might we, at least occasionally, be still… and just let our minds wander and wonder?

    Our deepest gratitude likely arises from solitude with our own thoughts.

    Lacking gratitude? Less sensory bombardment. More stillness.

  13. With enough of these, we feel like we can somewhat predict near-term reactions of another person to various stimuli. To accurately forecast someone’s behavior is to feel we know them, which may not be completely true, but at least it feels this way.

    The best, most stable relationships have acquired sufficient reactionary data from the other to pseudo-predict their responses to certain stimuli. And, for the most part, with our friends, we can, with astonishing accuracy. But sometimes the counterparty surprises us.

    Too much of a surprise (in magnitude) or too many surprises (in frequency) feels too unpredictable. Too uncertain. It’s difficult to maintain a stable relationship with constant unpredictability, especially as we age.

    By contrast, surprise us too little or too infrequently and the relationship feels dull. Stale. Rote.

    Maintaining a lagom (Swedish vocabulary without an exact English translation… “moderate”, “suitable”, “just right”) balance between surprise and predictable contributes to the marvel of beautiful relationships. We should strive for this stable equilibrium, by adding or subtracting variability, as needed, to true-up our own excesses and deficiencies in predictability. In other words, don’t be dull and don’t be crazy. Some flour. Some spice. But mostly flour, for most of us, most of the time.

    It’s also worth noting that extreme-dull and extreme-crazy do not avenge each other. Pairing extremes within one person does not average to normal. It averages to psycho. Center around the mean and vary a few deviations, randomly over time. Occasionally, swing for the fences… but, with your spouse, maybe talk about it first… like Sofie did when she mentioned she wanted to buy a motorcycle last year. Completely unpredictable… and cool. I’ll leave that story for another time.

  14. This could be an entire topic itself, which I will forego at this juncture. But the summary concept is that when we “determine” something, we really haven’t determined anything definitively, even though we might believe so.

    Few things are completely deterministic. When we say we have determined something – or that we “know” something – we really mean we have decided our assigned probability to the veracity of that thought is sufficiently high such that we believe it to be true, with a high degree of confidence. The flip side is, the percentage-of-certainty shy of 100% represents the degree of uncertainty about the same thought. Sometimes, we accept notions as “determined” when this percent-of-probability is quite distant from 100%.

    I suppose we must lock in some things, or how else could we move forward in life? We couldn’t. We would be stuck in a quagmire, continually questioning and weighing the probabilities of our thoughts. However, the difficulty with rendering a concept as absolute truth is that once we lock in a notion within our mind as deterministic, we tend not to change our views. So, we must be careful where we lock in our dogmatisms because these shape us and are nearly immutable.

    Just like we can dig a well with a shovel deep enough that we can’t get ourselves out, it’s difficult to excavate ourselves from a dug-in philosophical position, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We should therefore be cautious about the absolute truths upon which we stand. Every once in a while, it is healthy to look up, to ensure we haven’t dug in our ideas over our heads and thereby create our own mental prisons.

  15. There is one bizarre exception to this. I can remember where I sat in every class I’ve ever had, from pre-school through college and every professional conference or event I have ever attended. I can conjure these images with ease. And, if you were in a class with me, or in the audience, I can tell you where you sat as well. Doesn’t work if I was standing, only for seated memories. Strange.
  16. The past perfect reflexive verb tense, now used twice, is poor writing, but insinuates I may not be at fault for misplacing my book, an important point. Let’s not play the blame game here.
  17. We all know people who give excessive directions.

    Hint: after Step 3, no one is listening. For most people, Step 4 and Step 5 erase the first two steps from short-term memory. Rule of three. “Around the corner, on your left, by the large tree.” That’s all we can handle.

    The extraneous details about the neighbor’s white picket fence and the black mailbox that leans 20 degrees to the right with the red hummingbird painted on the side, by the railroad tracks, are simply unhelpful dumps of random memory.

    Except the railroad tracks.

    Railroad tracks always stick in our memory. In fact, as a rule, we should always include commentary about railroad tracks in our directional disseminations, even when there are none. “First right. Second Left. First right. You will cross no railroad tracks.” This is the third-degree blackbelt, pro-skills of giving directions.

  18. Although the phrase “somewhere on the property” can be incredibly useful when a kid loses their phone. Through an app, we at least know it is “somewhere on the property” and not “somewhere at school”, or “somewhere where you were before, but you are not now… and it’s late, and we were there like 45 minutes ago… and there is Dallas, at the restaurant, where we ate dinner, on our way home to Austin from Oklahoma.” In this case, “somewhere on the property” is somewhat reassuring, as it does not prolong a drive and force us to retrace a path that wasn’t particularly interesting the first time. You might get the sense this is a true story.
  19. Puns are the lowest form of humor in my estimation, but I couldn’t resist. For the grammar police, I know stationery is not stationary.
  20. And when they do, it’s in small increments and someone has a bruise on their upper thigh, usually Sofie.
  21. This is not a dig at my wife… just a fact.
  22. but maybe I intend to spin it on my finger, attempting to impress her with my book-spinning aptitude, like a middle school boy trying to get the attention of a cute girl. If you know me well, you might be inclined to think this option is equally probable. For the record, I am quite adept at spinning my phone on my finger as well.
  23. This rule is enacted way too frequently at our house… primarily by me.
  24. Our ancestral genetic forebearers also bore the desire to co-create, but their life was primarily toil. Their opportunity to participate in co-creation was trumped by an equivalent desire to survive. Survival was work. Hard work. Consequently, their depravity left little time for the greater desires of their hearts. Nevertheless, against all odds, they carried on and bequeathed to us the DNA of ambitious co-creation aspirations.

    We are also wired for survival, but that is largely a given in modern society. One would think we would therefore be masters of the co-creation instinct, having the luxury of time to pursue it. And yet, in modern times, we are so depraved of our depravity that we lack the gratitude for the gift we have been given, excess time to pursue our deepest desires. Instead, we convert much of our surplus time into superfluous time and concern ourselves with matters of self-pity and grand notions of our inflictions and victimizations. Scarcely do we realize that we are all simultaneously victims and perpetrators and could all, to some degree, be recipients and donors of reparations for acts we have performed ourselves and for the acts of courage and disgrace performed by our various ancestors.

    We would do well to apply our abundance of excess energy to acts of co-creation, a fundamental desire, with extreme gratitude in recognition that we are some of the first generations with the opulence of excess time to do so at scale. A wealth of non-survival-time should propel us to work, to create a more beautiful, lovely and loving world.

  25. Maybe, through our search, we navigate closer to that we ultimately wish to find, beckoned by the foundational splendor of all our sacred desires, emancipated from our natural enemies and primal fears, where unrequited love itself is eradicated because it is forbidden, and we are redeemed, from ourselves.
  26. This would truly be strange, as we do not own an RV. But suppose we did.
  27. We all change. We change in our relationship to things, to people, to the ideas of others, to our own opinions of ourselves and the world around us. All the richness of life, both within our DNA and our surroundings, mold us from someone we once were, into the someone we are now and help us aim at someone we might become, should misfortune not first overtake us.
  28. Sometimes, rather than searching for a book, we are searching for ourselves. Here, it is also helpful to have the assistance of someone who travels with us – someone near us, relative to where we are. Or, at least, someone who has been there before… especially someone who has been there before.
  29. With obvious implications for relationships.
  30. We constantly evolve into the person we are becoming. Shaped by our experiences and the continual unfolding of our genetic structures encoded deep within, we fall forward into life’s unknown as time engulfs us. As we steal a glance over our shoulder, we can only hope to say, “That was my best possible life… flaws, mistakes, limitations and all.” Even during those seasons that taught my heart to fear, hopefully we simply lacked wisdom, which we now have, precisely because we have gone through many dangers, toils and snares and garnered understanding, such that our suffering be not in vain.

    It is here, with reflection, we realize everything is a season and find ourselves capable of the amazing grace to forgive ourselves the ignorance of our youth and to accept the enormity that random chance plays within our lives.

    Nothing is ever in the same place it once was, nor are we, nor will we be where we are now for long. With this realization, we press on, promising to strive to create new moments that allow our future selves’ life-mirror to reflect back upon our best possible life, as if we had been there ten thousand years co-creating.

  31. And the answer is… probably because I am married to her. T’was blind but now I see.

3 comments

  • 31 footnotes and the fact that the footnotes are as long as the blog is absolutely perfect for this blog.
    The rambling thought process is exactly why we missed the entire town of Waco, Tx (I think that was the town we missed), which we did not find all the surprising, but our entire family found unimaginable.
    John also does not have the ability to visualize, which I found astonishing when I discovered. I found this out while reading out loud with him a book that I read around the same age. I was trying to help him remember and discuss so that he could write a book report. So after a particularly descriptive section, I asked him to stop and explain to me what he had just seen in his head. He said “what do you mean?” Which lead to a hysterical “who’s on first” type conversation. Because, as you pointed out there were assumptions being made on both sides. In the end, we discovered, that some of us have movies in our heads when we read a book, and for others, it’s blank. Fascinating.
    As always, thanks for the entertainment!

  • Andy, this is great!! I agreed with so many of your points and laughed so hard! I’m pretty confident that Soren and our Wyatt are related! This is absolutely true and entertaining. Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well with y’all! Tell Sofie to hang in there, I feel her completely. 😉 She’s not alone, trust me on this! Looking forward to reading your future “ramblings.”

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