What is the difference between good art and bad art?

The dictionary defines “art” as, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”

Wikipedia defines “art” as, “A diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts – artworks, expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

These definitions aren’t enigmatic. At its core, art is simply something that pleases the senses. If a human creates it, so much the better. That sounds simple, but thousands of books have been written further defining and explaining what art is, and every one of them is debatable.

Art is as much a question as it is a noun. No matter what answers you come up with, you can’t prove any of them. So there’s no point arguing what good art is, but that doesn’t mean there’s no point asking the question. If you devote your life to being an artist, you need some kind of answer/philosophy/framework that guides your creative process.

My definition for art is, “Whatever pleases the senses,” but I judge the quality of art by four criteria:

  1. How pleasing is it to the senses?
  2. How much practice, skill and effort did it take to create?
  3. How intelligently and harmoniously is it ordered?
  4. How much useful meaning does it have?

I’ll elaborate on each point:

  1. How pleasing is it to the senses?

Anything can be art as long as it’s pleasing. The view from a mountaintop, the sound of the ocean, the smell of a rose, or the feel of sand between your toes are all examples of naturally occurring art. They weren’t created by humans, but they’re mind-blowingly pleasing, and it took more skill and effort to create than anything humans can do. All of nature is designed mind-blowingly elegantly and harmoniously, and nature is as meaningful as life itself. So in my book, nature is the undisputed greatest artist and piece of art of all time. You can call the source of the universe’s artistry, “God…” or not. It doesn’t matter, but don’t say the Milky Way isn’t art just because a human didn’t create it.

As far as humans creating art goes, the bare minimum we have to do to create art is create something that pleases someone. It doesn’t require any skill or effort. You can create an enjoyable painting accidentally by spilling a tray of paints on a canvas.

It doesn’t even matter if you believe your work is pleasing. As long as someone else does, it’s art, because they perceive it to be, and if it’s real to them then it’s real in their universe.  If that person pays you $1 million for your “painting,” that proves your work is worth is worth $1 million… to them. But if another person wouldn’t pay you a penny for it, then they’ve proven it’s worthless… to them. There’s no inherent worth to any piece of art. It’s value is measured on a case by case basis. So if you want to become a rich artist, create what everyone wants most.

Quote by Henry David Thoreau, "The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."

  1. How much practice, skill and effort did it take to create?

I’ll pat you on the back for selling splatter paint for $1 million dollars, but I won’t respect you as much as Rembrandt. If anyone can reproduce your work, then it belongs in an expensive children’s art gallery at best. And if the main reason people buy your art is because you’re the-famous-splatter-paint-guy, and they’re investing in a widget they believe will increase in value as you increase in popularity, then your work belongs in a collector’s museum next to baseball cards and Beanie Babies. Frankly, if you can convince someone to give you $1 million for splatter paint that an elephant could recreate, you fit the criteria of a con artist.

If you spend your childhood practicing painting, and then go on to earn a degree in art, and then spend 20 years practicing until you can paint photorealistic portraits from memory, then your work belongs in a world class museum next to other master tradesmen. Putting Rothko paintings in the same museums as Normal Rockwell is like putting a sundial made from a stick in the ground next to the Rathaus-Glockenspiel and saying they’re both worthy of the same space.

  1. How intelligently and harmoniously is it ordered?

Beauty may be subjective, but it’s not arbitrary.  It can be understood, and its concepts applied. The human brain is hardwired to find certain patterns more appealing to the senses. The better you understand these patterns, and the more skilled you are at using tools to create them, the more pleasing work you can produce consistently, which means you deserve more respect than a one-trick ponies.

Every artistic discipline has well established guidelines for how to create work that is ordered, balanced and harmonious. There is music theory for sound, spatial/color theory for sight, culinary theory for taste, angles/pacing for dancing, structure for oration, rhyme and meter for poetry, plotting for stories, etc. This even applies to massage and sex.

This raises the question, what’s the common denominator that separates good painting, dancing, and singing from bad painting, dancing and singing? What makes art pleasing? I asked myself these questions one day while staring at a Jackson Pollock painting.

Ugly splatter paint art by the modern artist, Rothko.

I reasoned that if a Pollock painting is high art, then so is static television. They’re both just chaos, and chaos isn’t art. Chaos is just chaos. That’s the absence of artistry.

I further reasoned that if complete chaos is the absence of art, and complete order is equal to complete chaos, then art is balance between order and chaos.

The easiest way to explain what that means is by using some examples. Imagine you own an empty field by your house, and you want to plant trees in an artistic pattern to beautify your property. If you plant one tree, then there’s a feature to talk about, but it’s the bare minimum to make your yard a piece of art. If you plant two trees in random places, they won’t take your breath away. They’ll look random and uneventful. If you plant those two trees in symmetrical places, they’ll give shape and reference to the geometry of the field. If you plant three trees in a triangle in the center of the field, you’ll create an image and negative space in the design of the field.

The more order you introduce into your landscaping, the more artistic it becomes to the eye… as long as the spaces are harmoniously balanced and you don’t over-saturate the field with trees to the point of chaos.

You can make a nice spiral of trees and rightfully call it art, but if you plant rows of palm trees and shrubs in paths that create Celtic knots or a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, then you’ll have achieved order to the point of elegance. That should rightfully earn you more respect than a guy who throws seeds at his lawn in wild, emotional strokes.

The same concept is true for music. One note is an event. Two is almost enough to make something else. Three is a pattern. For a song to be enjoyable, the notes have to follow patterns, and those patterns can’t deviate too far, too often or the song unravels into chaos and sounds like Black Flag.

I can’t tell you the exact mathematical formula for beauty. Some people have said it’s the Golden Ratio, but they’re probably wrong. Whatever it is, it’s simple enough to be able to tune into without being able to articulate it, and some day scientists will figure it out. They’ve figured a lot out so far. It’s only a matter of time before science finds a unifying theory.

I believe they’ll find the most pleasing patterns consist of layers of increasing inorganic complexity, filled in with layers of organic complexity. The easiest way to explain what that means is by using an example.

Techno music is bare, elegant auditory art. Listening to it practically walks you through the steps of structuring art. It begins with a simple, steady bass beat. That’s the first layer of order. Then a slightly more complicated beat overlays that. Then they progressively faster and more complex. At some point, layers are added that aren’t just numerical beats. They’re chaotic and organic. By blending all these layers of complexity at a pace that’s pleasing to the ear, the DJ achieves elegance.

I’m not saying techno is the highest form of art or that every song needs to follow the same pattern, but it’s no accident that most popular songs have drums, a bass guitar, a backup guitar, a lead guitar and vocals. These fulfill the unspoken need for harmonious layers of order and complexity that the human mind seems to enjoy.

  1. How much useful meaning does it have?

My unifying theory of life is that life exists to fulfill its potential. Whatever helps life fulfill its potential is good, and whatever hinders it is evil. There’s a time and place to stop and smell the roses, but if all you do is dance in the rose garden all day, you’re going to die hungry and miss out on everything else life has to offer. Life is short and hard. There are lessons to be learned and goals to be accomplished. We don’t have time to fill our heads with white noise our entire lives. Art that teaches you something is inherently more valuable than something that doesn’t.

Sometimes bad art teaches us something profound, and some modern artists would say the idea is more important than the work itself, but in my opinion, if the idea is the only thing that’s worth anything, then the artist’s philosophy book would be worth more than their art.

Art may have a higher purpose than our own personal edification and petty entertainment. When you take a step back and look at art from the cosmic perspective, whenever we make art, we’re just rearranging pieces of the universe. And we, ourselves, are just rearranged pieces of the universe. So we’re the universe rearranging itself. And for what? No matter how much we rearrange, we’re all going to die someday, and eventually the universe will cool and blink out of existence, erasing everything we’ve done.

So why create anything? Why does anything we do matter at all? The funny thing about that question is that the universe thrust us into the position to ask it without asking us first. It went through a lot of trouble to bring us into existence, and all we do is just see, hear, taste, smell, feel, shit and die. The universe made us out of its self to do that. We’re the hands, eyes, ears, nose, and skin of the universe whether we want to be or not.

Maybe the universe didn’t make us for our sake. Maybe it made it for its own sake…. or both. Either way, if we can maximize the majesty of living by creating pleasure that doesn’t occur randomly in nature, then maybe we have a moral obligation to do so for our own sake as well as whoever else may be watching from afar and/or from within. It may be one of the only meaningful things we ever do in life.

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Tips on conversation: Part 1

A painting of two old gentlemen wearing classy suits and top hats talking in a cafe over drinks

 

Talking isn’t a competition. It’s an opportunity.

Humans have a tendency to approach conversations like a competition where the winner is whoever proves themselves the coolest, smartest, most successful, or most charming. But life isn’t a competition for social status. It’s nice when people like you, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Nor are you under any obligation to like or impress anyone else. Think about it. How many times as someone completely changed your life after you impressed them in a conversation? Unless you’re married, probably never.

Trying to impress everybody is futile, because you’re completely incompatible with at least half of the people you meet. So you were never going to be friends anyway, and most of the people you do get to know will be gone from your life in a few years, rendering their opinion of you meaningless eventually.

There are more enjoyable and useful kinds of conversations  you can have than dick waving competitions. Use conversation as an opportunity to learn, have fun and connect with others. That’s what they’re for.

Nobody is out to judge you.

Nobody who cares about you will judge you, and nobody else cares enough about you to judge you. Ultimately, you’re just another face in the crowd who isn’t going to be around in a few years. Everyone is obsessed with themselves. When they talk to you, they’re only paying half attention to what you’re saying. The rest of their mind is busy thinking about their own needs and insecurities.

In fact, strangers are more likely to want to give you the benefit of the doubt, because we all want to believe we live in a good world, full of good people. When you meet someone new, don’t you hope they turn out to be nice and enjoyable? When you introduce yourself to someone, they’re most likely crossing their fingers, thinking, “Please, let this person be one of the good guys.” They don’t want you to impress them. They mostly just want you to not make their life harder.

It’s true, there are people out there who will judge you, but those people usually judge everyone. Habitually judging others is dysfunctional behavior that has more of a negative impact on the perpetrator’s life than the victims’. That kind of behavior fits the definition of a mental disorder. It’s not a sign of evil. It’s a condition that requires treatment. So when a judge-aholic looks down on you, don’t take it any more personally or seriously than you would someone with an eating disorder judging the size of your meal.

Nobody sees the real you. 

If society’s dress code required everyone to wear masks all the time, we would all be more confident. Hiding our faces makes us feel safer, because nobody can see the real “us.” The more anonymous we feel, the more permission we give ourselves to act as bold in real life as we would on an internet message board. This is ironic, because nobody will ever see anyone for who they really are. Everyone has a completely unique universe in their mind that only sound can escape. Trying to understand who a person is by talking to them, is like an astronomer trying to study the night sky using an ear horn.

Our internal universes are so unique and inaccessible, it’s impossible for us to accurately imagine what reality is like from anyone else’s perspective. Since we can’t see people for who they are, we fill in the blanks with patterns from our own universe. So no matter what you do or say, when anyone looks at you, they mostly see themselves. The way they treat you usually has more to do with how they treat themselves, than how you deserve to be treated. So take advantage of your anonymity to act outside your comfort zone, and don’t worry about what people say to a mirror.

The scarier talking to people is, the more you should seek help.

Talking to people isn’t war. Nobody wants your worst-case fears to come true. They don’t even want to think about it. They just want to feel good. Even if conversations do go bad, in the long run it doesn’t matter. Stressing out about failing in conversations is an irrational fear. That’s the definition of a “phobia,” specifically, social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety exists only in your mind. You can turn it off like a light by thinking about anything else. If that doesn’t work, read some books on coping with social anxiety disorder and insecurity. If that doesn’t work, go see a mental health professional. Relief will only come as quickly as you pursue it.

The more you look at things from other people’s point of view, the less lost you’ll be. 

I learned some of the advice in this list from books, but I picked most of it up from watching people and trying to imagine life from their point of view. It’s easy, fun and enlightening. The more you understand where people are coming from, the better you can communicate with them. The less you understand them, the more lost you’ll be. If you don’t make a conscious decision to habitually look at conversations from other people’s point of view, you’ll always be lost.

Relax. We’re all apes here.

Some of my advice may seem contradictory, pessimistic or arrogant, but there’s a logical, impartial explanation for all of this. For example, I say people are unique, unknowable universes, but you can figure them out by watching them. I say people deserve love, but we’re all obsessed with ourselves. I say people are lost, ignorant and selfish, which raises the question, why don’t I live alone in the woods if everyone is so intolerably dumber than me?

Relax. I never said I was better than anyone else. The truth is, we’re all basically apes. We’re really clever apes, but our thought processes and motives are primitive enough to be predictable.

Apes are going to ape. That’s no reason to hate them. We may be goofy creatures, but we’re also cosmic miracles. The fact that we exist at all is reason enough to love us.

No matter how much better anyone thinks they are than anyone else, we’re all apes at the end of the day. There’s no reason to feel superior or inferior to anyone else. Nor is there any reason to stress over winning the approval of other apes. If someone ever throws shit at you, take it as personally as you would an ape throwing shit at you. If someone treats you divinely, cherish it. In the meantime, relax.

People would rather hear what they have to say than what you have to say.

When people talk to you, it’s like you’re standing behind an opaque mirror, and they’re talking to a reflection of themselves superimposed over a hazy outline of you. They’ve been talking to themselves their entire life, because they’re all they know of the universe. Being the only thing in their universe, their lives revolve around themselves, and they’re the most important thing in their universe.

People want to talk about what’s most important to them, which means anyone without social anxiety disorder probably wants to talk about themselves. Usually, they don’t even want to have a two-way conversation. They just want to talk about themselves and have you listen, smile, nod and compliment them.

The more you talk about yourself, the less they’re going to feel like they’re getting out of the conversation. After a few minutes they’re going to lose interest and spend the rest of the conversation impatiently waiting for their turn to talk or for the conversation to be over. Impressing people in conversation requires almost no talking at all. The only thing you have to do is find out what aspect of their life they want to talk about and ask them about it. The harder you try to blow their mind with what you have to say, the more likely you’ll convince them you’re an arrogant bore.

Flattery will get you everywhere.

People may be unique and unknowable universes, but making them feel good is simple. Just make them feel good about themselves. Give them the approval they so desperately yearn for. Flatter them.

Look at their wardrobe and how they present themselves. Find whatever they put the most thought and energy into and compliment it. Part of them doesn’t even care if you’re sincere or smooth about it. They just want positive reinforcement.

It looks desperate if you constantly praise people, but they won’t hate you for it. More likely, they’ll feel bad for you that you feel the need to impress your equals. However, you can stealthily give them subtle positive reinforcement by smiling, looking them in the eye, laughing and agreeing with them.

This doesn’t mean you should act like a Stepford Wife. If you’re talking to a violent racist, you shouldn’t be laughing and agreeing with what they say. But as a general rule, if you want people to approve of you, then approve of them. They wish you would.

Your name is the sweetest sound you can hear in any language.

Everyone is existentially lost in an incomprehensible universe waiting to die an unexplainable death. We don’t even know if we really exist or if this is just a simulation in a dream. Even living in a city, surrounded by people, you can feel utterly meaningless if nobody ever says your name.

Hearing someone say your name verifies your existence, and connects you to society. It makes you feel popular, important, and worth knowing. When you hear your name, for that moment, the attention is on you. You’re the belle of the ball. We all want to feel that, and we rarely do.

Saying someone’s name is more than just existential flattery. It’s the difference between a stranger and an acquaintance. The more you hear someone say your name, the more a part of their life you’ll be. To build a long lasting relationship with someone, you have to say their name.

Don’t constantly tell people your life story.

Very few people really want to know your life story. It bores everyone else. It also eliminates your mystery and anonymity. The less people know about you, the more they have to fill in the blanks with speculation. We tend to assume people are more perfect than they are. The less we know about them, the more we build them up. This is why teenage girls get so obsessed with boy bands. Since she’ll never meet the boy in person to find out what he’s really like, she falls in love with a mental construction of her ideal boyfriend. To far lesser degrees, everyone you know has done the same thing to you. The more they know about you, the more they see you as a regular, flawed person.

I’m not saying you should strive to be fake or aloof. You should have at least one confidant who knows your entire life story and all your secrets, and you should share your stories freely with the people you want to build life bonds with. But in casual conversation with acquaintances and strangers, you have more to lose than you have to gain by constantly spilling all your beans and cramming them down people’s throats.

Don’t constantly tell people your traumas, dramas and dark secrets. 

Nobody wants to hear about the best vacation you ever took. They really don’t want to hear about the worst things that have happened, are happening, or might happen in your life. All they want, is to feel good.

Hearing your horrible stories will force them to visualize unpleasant things. Then they’ll feel sad for you and guilty that they can’t save you. Then they’ll feel anxious as they try to come up with a solution to your problem. Then they’ll feel frustrated when you don’t take their advice. Then they’ll feel afraid you’re going to ask them for something. When the conversation is over, they’ll feel relief that you’re not battering their psyche like an emotional tornado. After they leave your company, they’ll continue feeling bad. If this happens enough times, they’ll avoid you.

Nobody wants to feel your pain. They want to feel your joy. If you can’t make people laugh, the least you could do is not go out of your way to burden them with your problems. If you need to talk about your problems, you should talk to a therapist.

Don’t constantly bitch about anything. 

Your life might be great, but there’s something else wrong in the world that pisses you off, like your government, immigrants, your lover, your boss, the opposite sex, young people, etc. Nobody wants to hear about it. Nobody cares that you’re upset. They care about making it through the day as happily as possible.

When you bitch about anything, you put a rain cloud over your audience’s head. You may be right about what you’re saying, and it may be important, but depressing the people you hang out with isn’t going to fix the world’s problems. It’s just going to earn you a reputation as an emotionally draining whiner.

Nobody wants to hear you brag.

You can impress people by bragging for a few minutes. The longer you try after that, the more it’ll have the opposite effect. You’d think people’s admiration of you would be proportional to how awesome of a life you’ve lived. But the more amazing your life is than theirs, the more your success highlights the shortcomings in their life. That makes them feel unfulfilled, which makes them feel guilty. Then they resent you for rubbing it in. Then they dismiss their emotional pain by blaming you and labeling you an arrogant brat who thinks life is a dick waving competition and always hogs the conversation telling your life story that nobody wanted to hear in the first place.

If you do have some really great stories that are genuinely interesting, wait until the most poignant time to share them, preferably when someone asks. Your stories will be far more impressive and digestible if you save them. Then people will be amazed you lived a more interesting life than they thought. Then they’ll fill in the rest of the blanks in your life with more positive speculation.

Don’t one-up people’s stories.

It’s painful enough to hear someone deliver a monologue about how much better they are than you. It’s even worse when they try to trump all of your stories. This is the fastest way to convince people you’re not worth talking to.

Be vigilant not to constantly auto-contradict people.

Having anything you say shot down is annoying. Yet many people’s default manner of speaking is to contradict everything anyone says. They believe they’re being smart by finding exceptions and holes in other people’s statements, but their efforts accomplish nothing. They don’t learn, teach or stand for anything, and it shows. Even if you’re right, your audience probably wouldn’t listen. The only thing they’re going to learn is that you’re impossible to talk to.

Don’t play the devil’s advocate.

Some people don’t realize they’re stuck on auto-contradict. Others make it a point to say things they don’t even believe because they’re on a mission to poke holes in people’s conversation. If you call them out on it, they may say they want to help stupid people correct their ignorance, which may be true, but their deeper motivations are sadism, self-centeredness and insecurity.

If your audience really is ignorant, then taunting them is like belittling a child because he hasn’t gone to college yet. Even if they’re too stupid to see what a misguided fraud you are, your actions still prove you’re a bad person in the greater scheme of life.

If your audience is smarter than you think, which they probably are, they’ll see through your shallow game. Even if they don’t, they’re going to remember how you made them feel. If you didn’t make them feel good, they’re not going to try to be a positive force in your life.

Don’t gossip or bitch about other people behind their backs.

It’s common knowledge that anyone who gossips to you, will also gossip about you. Every time you gossip, you’re convincing your audience you’re not trustworthy. And, obviously, you can only talk about other people so many times before it gets back to one of them. On the other hand, if you never do wrong by people, then that’s what people are going to say about you, and respect is going to come back to you.

Constantly bringing up negative information doesn’t help you or your audience achieve happiness. Sure, gossiping is a guilty pleasure, but it pales in comparison to the good feeling you get from talking about the positives in life. There are enough that focusing on the negative is like going to a rose garden and looking for dog shit to sniff.

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Tips on conversation: Part 2

A painting of two old men dressed in nice suits and top hats having a lively conversation in a cafe over drinks

Talking about touchy subjects ends in absurdity often, violence sometimes and cohesion rarely.

There’s an old saying, “Never talk about politics or religion.” This is because nobody has the exact same beliefs, and we tend to defend our beliefs more than we question them. We behave this way partly because we’re cognitive misers and party because we’ve been indoctrinated not to question certain topics. Either way, talking about those topics is more likely to end in conflict than cohesion. However, people are more likely to avoid conflict than jump at the chance to escalate it. So you’ll probably spend the whole conversation dancing around taboos, trying not to offend each other.

The whole exercise was probably futile to begin with, because most people only have a vague idea what they believe. So the deeper you dig, the more excuses and flimsy justifications you’re likely to find than useful or interesting knowledge.

Disagree respectfully.

By some people’s definition, an enemy is anyone who disagrees with them. Yet, everyone disagrees with everyone on something. If you perceive disagreements as battle lines, you’ll have to go war with everyone, and the only thing that would accomplish is making enemies out of all your potential allies and friends.

The chances of you changing anyone’s mind about anything are slim. The odds fall to zero the moment you speak disrespectfully towards them, but the more polite you are, the more kindly they’ll have to view you and your ideology.

Even if you can’t convert them on the spot, you may plant a seed that will germinate later. Regardless, you can still win their respect by treating them with respect and presenting your arguments professionally.

The only person who wins an argument is the one who learns something.

Since you’re unlikely to change people’s minds about anything, and it usually doesn’t really matter whether or not you do, the only thing you stand to gain by arguing is learning something yourself. And since arguments usually happen when both people are half right, the fact that you’re arguing in the first place, probably means you need to learn something. Fighting the other person is the worst way to accomplish that goal.

Accepting responsibility for your actions will get you out of trouble better than making excuses.  

The topic of hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations you’ll have throughout your life will be about how you did something wrong. People tend to instinctively defend themselves when criticized, which is one of the worst things a person can do to themselves. When people say to your face, that you did something wrong, they’re almost always at least half right. Their criticism is like a gift from God, because it warns you what’s wrong with you and tells you what you need to fix, before you suffer any real consequences. Getting defensive and/or fighting the people who try to hold you accountable is like fighting a doctor who is trying to remove the knife you stabbed yourself with.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who don’t need to. The more excuses you make, the less people will take you seriously. If you want to impress people, then listen to them, and admit when you’re wrong. You might think weaseling out of accountability lets you save face, but it really just makes you look like a weasel. If you accept responsibility for your actions, admit when you’re wrong and fix your flaws, the people you once disappointed will come to look up to you.

 Take advice. 

You can learn how to fix your flaws before they get you in trouble. You probably ask people for advice all the time. The more you bitch about your problems, the more advice people are going to give you whether you want it or not, because that’s the only way they can unburden themselves of the problems you’re dumping on them. People’s advice is rarely 100% true, but it’s also rarely 100% useless. You have nothing to gain by rejecting advice and everything to gain from embracing it.

Don’t give much advice.

Everybody needs advice, but people rarely take it, even when they ask for it. Trying to give someone advice, or expecting them to take it, almost always ends in nothing but frustration for the giver. You’re more likely to burn a bridge than save a life. I’m not saying you should never give people advice. I’m just saying, be aware that you’re playing with fire. If you start to see smoke coming out of the other person’s ears, stop.

Ask for advice. 

People like to give advice, as long as you listen to them and take what they say to heart. It’s flattering and creates a meaningful connection between the confidant and confessor. Plus, it just feels good to help people.

This is convenient, because you need advice. You’re so lost, you don’t even know how lost you are. Everyone around you is a treasure chest of information waiting to be opened. Not asking for advice is leaving money on the table.

Don’t let people constantly dump their problems on you. 

You should try to help whoever you can, because all life is equally valuable. So it’s as good to help others as it is to help yourself. This also means it’s important for you to make the most of your own life, and it’s a waste of your invaluable time and energy to coddle people who just want to bitch about everything with no intention of changing anything.

It doesn’t even help the person with the “apocalypse of the week,” because it enables their parasitic behavior. As long as they have a willing host, they’ll stay an emotionally crippled parasite forever, guaranteeing their trivial problems will always be your emergencies.

People tend to mimic your emotional tone.

Humans learn about the world by mimicking others. Even as adults, we’ll stand up if everyone in the room stands up. It’s almost impossible to frown in a room full of laughing people, and it’s just as hard to laugh in a room full of crying faces.

Behavior is contagious. This doesn’t mean you always act like the last person you spoke too, but you will get swept up in their emotion. For example, if you meet someone who is crying, you’re going to react with sadness. If you someone screams at you, you’re going to want to scream back. When someone shows you kindness and love, you’re probably going to be nice to them.

If you want people to like you and be nice to you, then approach them with happiness and friendship. If you want someone to listen to you, don’t scream at them. If you don’t want people to be stressed out and anxious around you, don’t act like everything is always hopeless.

Everyone uses and reacts to emotional tones differently.

As children, we tend to assume everyone is more or less exactly like us. We reason that if we’re all human, then we must all express emotions the same, but we’re all unique snowflakes when it comes to that. For instance, you’d think you could judge how mad a person is by how loud they raise their voice, but some people shout when they’re not mad, while other people perceive any outburst over a whisper to be apocalyptic.

It’s harder than you’d think to accurately assess people’s emotional state or intentions. So it’s a generally good idea to stay on guard not to let yourself get swept up by people’s emotions. Hear them out while wearing a dumb leopard expression on your face. If there really is an emergency, getting swept up in their hysteria won’t help you fix it. On the same token, don’t shout at people or react to minor inconveniences with excessive emotion. Even if you’re calm in your head, you’re freaking everyone out.

Don’t interrupt.

You’d think it goes without saying not to interrupt people when they’re talking, but it happens every day, because the point of being rude is you don’t think about how your actions affect other people.

Look at conversations from the other person’s point of view. They’re in it for what they can get out of it. They probably feel insecure and want to prove their worth. They’re just hoping someone validates their existence by saying their name and complimenting them. No matter how you look at it, they just want to have an experience that makes them happy.

When you interrupt someone, you may as well stop the whole conversation, point to the person you just interrupted and declare whatever they’re saying isn’t important because they’re not important. Then carry on the conversation.

Nobody deserves to be made to feel unimportant. It’s unjust and will probably make an enemy out of the person you cut down. Plus, observers are more likely to view you as rude, than as the savior of the conversation.

You don’t have to lie to kick it.

Lying to make yourself look better never works in the long run. Eventually people will see what you’re doing and lose respect for you. If they do believe all your outlandish stories, they’ll resent you for making them feel inferior or just for talking about yourself all the time.

People don’t stay friends with the people who impress them the most. They stay friends with the people they’re most comfortable around and don’t have to compete with. If you believe you need to constantly impress your friends, the problem is either in your head, or you need new friends.

Cops, blood, sex and drugs.

If you’re ever in a group that’s either struggling to keep a conversation going, or the topic is boring, ask if anybody has any good stories about themselves or a friend involving cops, blood, sex and/or drugs. You’d be surprised how many stories everyone has involving those topics. They’re as fun to tell as they are to hear. Plus, it creates a meaningful connection with people when they share mildly taboo information about themselves. However, the more formal the social gathering, the more inappropriate it would be to raise these topics.

Always have a few jokes up your sleeve.

Jokes are always enjoyable, but it’s rare to hear one person tell more than five jokes in a single conversation. Anyone can memorize five jokes to have ready. You don’t need to tell a joke in every conversation, and you certainly shouldn’t tell the same five jokes every time you talk. Tell a joke if someone asks, if it’s relevant to the current topic or to bridge a silent gap in conversation. People will like you for it, and your conversation will be more fun.

You are what you talk about.

If all you ever talk about is children’s cartoons, then that’s what your mind will consist of. If all you ever talk about is how angry you are about injustice, you’ll live in a bitterly unjust universe. If all you ever talk about is pop culture, your life will amount to a television commercial. If you spend your whole life bitching about other people, then you fit the definition of a bitch.

If you always speak nicely to people, you’ll feel nice, and you’ll have nice memories to look back on. If you ask everyone for advice, your mind will fill up with superpowers. If you meet people from all over the world and listen to their stories, you internal universe will become as colorful as a Holi festival.

Mind your karma ghosts.

The emotional impact of how you treat people lasts long after you’re gone. If someone walks away from you happy, they’ll probably be nicer to the next person they meet. If someone walks away from you angry, they’ll probably be meaner to the next person they meet. The bigger an impact you have on people, the longer they carry the ghosts of your actions with them. The memory of a single conversation with you could pop up in their mind periodically for the rest of their life, bringing those old feelings back to the surface, like a ghost from the past haunting them.

Your actions have ripple effects that extend across time and space. Every time you make someone feel good, you make the world better. Every time you make someone feel bad, you make the world worse.

Mind your appearance.

The cleaner and more professional you look, the more professionally people will assume they should interact with you. The more sexually attractive you are, the more people will try to woo you and overlook your flaws.

The sloppier you dress, the less seriously people will take you. The more you dress like a stereotypical violent criminal, the more people will be afraid of you. The blander you dress, the less you’ll excite people.

The weirder you look, the more likely people are to reject or dismiss you, which can be a blessing or a curse, because the more you look like the person you’re talking to, the more likely they’ll accept you… and hold you accountable to the cultural standards and values of people who dress like you. In other words, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, but if you don’t want to be held to Roman standards, don’t dress like a Roman, but don’t be surprised when the Romans don’t accept you.

Surround yourself with people who enjoy talking about the same things as you. 

Conversation is an opportunity to learn, have fun and build connections. If you’re constantly bored by the conversations you have with the people in your life, then you probably need to surround yourself with new people who want to talk about the same things as you. Life is too short, and the potential for joy is too great, to spend time with people you don’t find interesting.

Cutting people out of your life doesn’t mean you think you’re better than them. There’s no such thing as “the best people.” There’s just the best people for you. The people you’ll enjoy talking to the most tend to be the ones who share most of your interests as strongly as you.

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The Non-Believers’ 10 Commandments

Etching of Moses holding the Ten commandments over his head as lightening flashes overhead and people flee in fear below him

Religious believers often ask where non-believers get their morals without God. This is ironic, because to the non-believer, all religions are tantamount to mythologies. So to them, it’s like being asked, “Where do you get your morals, if you don’t believe in mythology?”

The answer lies in the question, because if all religious rules were written by men, then the only way anyone has ever defined any moral rules was by making them up. That doesn’t mean no rules have any value. The value of a rule isn’t determined by who says it, or how they came by it, but by how useful it is.

For example, it’s no accident that multiple religions and governments all around the world had already invented the rule, “Do not murder,” before the authors of the 10 Commandments. Anybody tasked with making rules for a society would immediately come to the logical conclusion that forbidding murder should be one of the first rules on the list.

At the same time, the authors of the 10 Commandments also list human beings as things that can be legally owned as property, but any rational person would come to the immediate conclusion that legalizing slavery dishonors the value of life and should be forbidden.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17

Nobody speaks for God. Every moral rule you’ll ever encounter was created by existentially lost humans, but that doesn’t mean we’re helpless. We all have cosmic supercomputers inside our skulls, and rules are nothing more than guidelines or best practices for accomplishing goals. So if you can use your brain to figure out that people should wear safety goggles when operating a table saw, you can invent useful rules for any and every aspect of your life.

If you don’t know where to start, try looking at other people’s rules and finding what you like or dislike in them. Use that as a springboard to developing your own list of life’s best practices. You can start by constructively criticizing mine:

  1. All life is infinitely valuable. Treat it accordingly.

You don’t need God to tell you all life is infinitely valuable. Even if there’s not enough evidence floating around the universe to deduce why life exists, there’s enough evidence lying in plain sight, a child could come to the conclusion that all life is infinitely valuable.

The universe may seem like a savage, cruel place, but that’s just because it’s indifferent. The universe is operating on autopilot, and it might seem like the universe is out to get you when it runs you over, but if you step back and look at the grand design, you’ll find so much elegance and perfection you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that the universe is too elegant and genius for a human being to comprehend.

From what we know, the universe shouldn’t even exist at all, let alone life. Yet we live in a universe that has been meticulously designed to sprout life on giant, spinning balls of compressed matter that perpetually rearrange themselves according to fixed rules. The universe is an inexplicable life machine that shouldn’t exist. Every living thing is lucky to be here, and we only have a flicker of time to make the most of the privilege. Value life according to its rarity, elegance and the amount of work that went into creating it. Treat your life and others accordingly.

  1. Your life is your responsibility.

The universe is not out to get you or help you any more than it already has by giving you the universe and the tools to make the most out of your life. You don’t deserve, and will not receive, any miracles, bargains or any other entitlements from the universe.

You may receive aid and instruction from people, but you’re not entitled to any. Society doesn’t owe you anything you haven’t signed a contract for. The responsibility to make sure your life is good and complete, falls entirely on your shoulders.

  1. You are lost. It’s up to you to find life’s purpose.

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but you have all the tools necessary to find answers, and ultimately, purpose, in life. Your life will only be as effective and meaningful as the purpose you live towards. Nobody can decide your purpose for you, though many will try. You must find it yourself for it to be yours. Choosing not to find purpose is choosing to live without it.

  1. Consider and honor the cost/benefit analysis of your actions.

The value of your actions are determined by how productively they accomplish a goal. Ultimately, the value of all actions are relative to how productively they fulfill the meaning of life. Whatever you do, ask yourself if the benefit to the end goal outweighs the cost. Take risks at your discretion, but always honor the cost/benefit analysis of your actions.

  1. Never stop learning and studying.

You are your mind. The quality and quantity of your mind is relative to the information inside it. Never stop learning and teaching yourself so that you may never stop growing.

  1. Think rationally.

Mastering the art of thinking is a moral imperative, because every mental and physical action you’ll ever perform are based on decisions you calculate in your mind. The more effective your reasoning skills are, the more effective you’ll be at everything.

  1. Put everything you learn to the test of truth.

Nothing is true by divine authority. The truth of a fact is determined only by the quality of the evidence supporting it. So question everything, especially your answers, because the more reality-based your beliefs are, the more effective they’ll be in the real world.

  1. Find and define yourself

Some aspects of your personality were set at birth, and others you get to pick. Discover what makes you who you are, decide who you want to be, and then become that person. The more you, you are, the more you exist, and the more able you are to fulfill your purpose. The less you, you are, the less you exist.

  1. Take care of your body.

Your mind and body are parts of the same machine. The better you take care of your body, the better your mind and body can do what they’re designed to do. The less care you take of your body, the less you can do and the harder everything is.

  1. Enjoy the moment.

No one knows why we’re here or what happens after death, but we do know we’re here now. If we can’t know anything else about life, we know the current moment is an opportunity to enjoy yourself. No one has found any irrefutable reasons why we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves. If you take nothing else from this life, find ways to take joy out of it before it’s too late.

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Believing in Christianity is always absurd, but more so for certain ethnic groups.

It’s absurd for anyone to believe in Christianity, because Christianity is mythology, and you don’t have to be a genius to prove it. Children are famous for pointing out the holes in Christianity. There are so many holes in Christianity, an entire branch of academics had to be created to account for them all. It had to be, because you can’t believe in Christianity without using speculation and logical fallacies to explain everything in the Bible that contradicts reality.

At least half of all Caucasian Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and Latinos believe in Christianity. I couldn’t find an exact number for Native Americans, but it’s definitely higher than zero. It’s historically absurd for any member of these groups to believe in Christianity, because Christianity was spread to their races specifically for the purpose of erasing their culture and controlling their communities.

It doesn’t take a genius or conspiracy theorist to come to this conclusion. It’s the theme of Judaism and Christianity’s history. The Torah is mostly a timeline of the Jewish state’s creation and expansion, which officially began with Moses uniting the factions of his tribe under one religion, driving out all other beliefs, customs and competition. The story ends after thousands of years of military expansion and ethnic cleansing.

"This is what the Lord Almighty says... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" 1 Samuel 15:3

The only reason the leaders of the Jewish theocracy stopped adding lists of victories and biographies of their kings to the Torah is because the Romans conquered Israel. Since Israel’s government leaders were also its religious leaders, their religious authority died with their political power.

The occupying Romans had a much more fluid attitude towards religion than the Jews. They already had experience reducing civil unrest by absorbing religions and spreading their own. In fact, they were the world’s leading experts in expansion and oppression.

That’s why there was so much civil unrest in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The Romans were trying to force their government and culture on the Jewish people, who were decended from generations of militant religious fanatics who believed God had been smiting their enemies for thousands of years. The zealousness and ferociousness of the Jewish resistance fighters earned them a reputation in Rome as formidable opponents who would never surrender.

It’s beyond convenient that the story of Jesus began circulating through Israel at this time. Jesus claimed to be Yahweh incarnate, and had come to Earth in human form for the first time in history, to change His covenant with the Jews. He no longer wanted Jews to expand Israel by military force. He wanted them to accept foreigners as brothers and let Roman soldiers slap them.

It’s also telling that the author of the Bible made it a point to blame Jesus’s murder on the Jews, and absolve the Roman government of any crime. The chances of anyone associated with the Jewish religion writing those words after The Siege of Masada, is slim to none, but the practicality of a Roman writing those words is obvious.

The Jewish insurrection ended as Christianity gained popularity. Within a few hundred years of Christianity’s invention, the leaders in Rome made Christianity the official state religion and published the official version of the New Testament. Then their church leaders added a million more rules outside of the Bible in the form of church doctrine, still claiming the same divine authority they canonized the New Testament with. The chances of the creator of the universe completely reversing the theme of his commandments and abandoning his literal home on Earth in Jerusalem, which He meticulously described how to build, and moving to Rome to speak through Italians, is slim to none.

After Yahweh converted to Catholicism, churches were established in every European country, converting warring Pagans and barbarians into standardized, slap-accepting, Christian workers whose goal is life was to be servile and give God money. So when you read about white Christians oppressing minorities and erasing their culture, keep in mind that white European cultures were the first victims of Christian colonization.

Once Europe became Christian-ized, the Catholic church sent missionaries with explorers from every European country to spread Christianity to the new world. These explorers weren’t noble woodsmen who just wanted to make maps and build log houses. They had a very specific agenda to loot and plunder. In their own words, they viewed all the indigenous people they encountered as work animals to be yoked or vermin to be exterminated.

"The Indians are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone. they would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Christopher Columbus

The chances of the church sending missionaries with looting murderers to save the souls of God’s children are slim to none. Even if that wasn’t the church’s intention, Christian culture still eroded indigenous cultures everywhere missionaries established churches.

Historian, Adriaan van Oss wrote, “If we had to choose a single, irreducible idea underlying Spanish colonialism in the New World, it would undoubtedly be the propagation of the Catholic faith. Unlike such other European as England or the Netherlands, Spain insisted on converting the natives of the lands it conquered to its state religion. Miraculously, it succeeded. Introduced in the context of Iberian expansionism, Catholicism outlived the empire itself and continues to thrive, not as an anachronistic vestige among the elite, but as a vital current even in remote mountain villages. Catholicism remains the principal colonial heritage of Spain in America. More than any set of economic relationships with the outside world, more even than the language first brought to America’s shores in 1492, the Catholic religion continues to permeate Spanish-American culture today, creating an overriding cultural unity which transcends the political and national boundaries dividing the continent.”

In many places, notably, Hawaii, the early British missionaries became wealthy land and slave owners while locals lost access to their hunting, fishing and gathering grounds. The more scarce their land rights became, the more scarce the necessities of life became, which made them proportionally more expensive. Since the job markets couldn’t grow on isolated islands, poverty and drug use became epidemic among Pacific islanders, and they still are today.

Since church attendence is too, Christian leaders are still stockpiling donation from the poorest of the hopeless. To be fair, not all island churches are rich, and many have outreach programs that help their community, but their efforts are lip service towards fixing the fundamental problem they helped create and continue to profit from.

As the world’s island nations were being turned into resource farms for Christian, European nations, so was mainland America. After the British empire lost control of its colonies, many of the Christian governments left in its wake, notably the United States of America, continued to use Christianity to justify slavery.

As much as African Americans still resent and fear slavery, the Bible still approves of slavery multiple times in both the Old Testament and New Testament. So slavery can only remain illegal in America as long as Americans don’t follow the teachings in the Bible.

"Slaves, obey your masters." Colossians 3:22

If a white man told an African American that slavery should be legal today, most people would agree the white guy had it coming if the black guy beat him up. However, when the Bible says slavery should be legal today, most African Americans ignore it or make excuses, even though those passages are the exact ones used to justify enslaving their ancestors.

After slavery ended, Jim Crow laws and Biblical-inspired racism kept African Americans living like second class citizens. To overcome living in a state of perpetual psychological oppression, the African American culture evolved to value racial empowerment and personal independence more zealously than white Americans, who didn’t have the same motivation to prove their worth.

African American culture’s attitude towards self-empowerment directly conflicts with the Bible’s philosophy of perpetual servility, self-loathing  and guilt. A black person wouldn’t accept a white person telling him he’s an unworthy dog, but there are black people with pictures of blonde hair, blue eyed, white Jesus hanging on their walls. And when He says to kneel, they do, just like many Vikings did.

Mexican Americans didn’t officially have to endure Biblical-inspired slavery, but they’ve been treated like slaves most of America’s history. Today, the crime, poverty and church attendance rates in their communities are almost equal to African Americans.

The Bible didn’t create poverty, capitalism did, but the Bible teaches beliefs and behaviors that stimulate poverty and make it harder to escape. The Bible is against birth control, but higher birth rates lead to higher crime rates. The Bible says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” but higher child abuse rates lead to higher crime rates. The Bible says divorce is immoral, but higher rates of dysfunctional relationships lead to higher domestic violence rates. The Bible says the poorer you are, the better it is to give more, but the only way to get out of poverty is to save money, and the less money you have, the worse every aspect of your life gets.

In order to be successful in a capitalist economy, you need confidence and education. The Bible indoctrinates you to believe you’re lucky God loves you, because you’ll never be good enough to deserve love. It also teaches you to believe stories that contradict scientific evidence, which sets you up to distrust logic and facts. And all the time you spend reading your Bible, praying and attending church functions, wastes time that could be used to succeed in life.

Poor people have been praying and giving money to God for centuries, and it hasn’t helped them out of poverty. It’s only made poverty worse. There’s enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that prayer doesn’t work. The Gospel of Prosperity doesn’t work. The Bible’s instructions on life don’t work.

The DSM-4 defines a mental disorder as, “A clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.”

The DSM-5 defines a mental disorder as, “A syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities.”

It’s counterproductive to give money to churches or practice Biblical beliefs. They both lead to emotional distress and dysfunctional behavior. And to continue believing in Christianity, you have to deny overwhelming evidence and use irrational logic; in other words, you have to think and behave in ways that fit the definition of insanity. It’s literally insane for anyone to believe in Christian mythology, but it’s poignantly ironic when the victims of Christianity’s cultural extermination campaigns do it.

I don’t say this in bitterness. It just tastes that way because it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The call to action these observations raise, is not to ridicule Christians. They need treatment, and the only cure for their condition is knowledge.

Most Christians don’t realize how absurd the Bible is, because they never read the whole thing. They only know and practice the parts they learned about in church. Nobody wants to accept that they’ve been basing their life on an ancient state-sponsored mythology, especially if they’re afraid of going to Hell. But you can only see so much evidence before you can’t unsee it. Once you see it, you’ll see it on every page of the Bible.

If the Bible is true, then it will stand the test of truth. In that case, the only thing to be gained from testing it is strengthening your beliefs. If there really is enough evidence in the Bible to prove it’s mythology, you stand to gain everything from looking for it.

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Two Feminist Ladies #2

I’m not a chauvinist or misogynist, and I’m not against feminism. I am against radical feminism, which teaches negative stereotypes of men, especially white men, to use them as a scapegoat for the world’s problems. The comics below satirize common talking points expressed by radical feminist social justice warriors on social media.

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two feminist ladies 18

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