I'm not shy to stay this - this site has already been blessed with some of the smartest comments and people I've seen online.
The internet is powerful, but much of it is a vast space of short term distraction and time wasting. Even most of the stuff that tries to be serious is poorly thought emotional suckage. For instance, one of the most prolific people writing on "economics" online is a partisan hack who solely uses emotional language and doesn't actually do any real economics, experimenting, modeling, math, or statistics ever. Or at least, hasn't in two decades.
I built this site partially to rebel against the vast sea of distraction and emotional-based suckage. Where do strong, smart, ambitious, virtuous, pragmatic people hang out online? There aren't too many places. So I wanted to build one.
And there have been fruits to this! Already, there's been a number of smart comments. Some hundreds of people come and read each day, a number in the low thousands if you include RSS. And when excellent comments are made, I'm really honored to feature them as their own posts so they get the attention they deserve.
This comment on "A Realization About Japanese and American Superheroes" is brilliant -
I agree that in times of extreme emotional imbalance, relying on (quality) training is the best, if not only, way to go.
As you mentioned earlier, many professionals rely on frequent and standardized training to garner successful results in extreme/dangerous/emotional environments. Aboard the vessel I work on, we hold fire, man overboard, abandon ship and security drills weekly. In the maritime industry, it has been proven time and again that frequent, standardized, and quality training diminishes the detrimental effects of emotions, primarily fear and panic, when faced with extreme survival conditions at sea. Many people have died at sea and been found by search and rescue teams holding on to the lifesaving equipment that could have saved them- had they known how to use it. Imagine the feeling of holding on to a life raft but not knowing how to deploy it, while succumbing to hypothermia or drowning. Certainly an example of poor, or nonexistent training.
Assuming that the training is from a quality source, and accepted as such, then reacting to an emotional event with blatant disregard for said training is similar to not having had training at all. There is room for improvisation in many situations, so saying that training and creativity are critical to one another makes a lot of sense.
A simplified realistic scenario to consider: No two fires are the same, but scientifically, you know that certain combinations of flammable materials will burn with known characteristics, and must be extinguished with a recognized extinguishing agent. How exactly you apply the extinguishing agent can change, but knowing when/where/why/how to use it allows for creativity to be successful. Without the training, you could use the wrong type of extinguishing agent and actually spread the fire. Creativity is useless in that scenario. For example, using water on an oil fire, is just not going to work and will probably splash oil around and set more things on fire. However, using training + creativity, you can use water to cool down the surrounding areas and allow access to the fire's location in order to distribute the proper extinguishing agent and put out the fire. Without using creativity, you may not have been able to access the fire, and your training would have been useless.
I'm sure that situations exist when training is not superior, and other options are better such as if the quality of training is poor, or new information renders the old methods outdated.
As well, one need not apply complete disregard for the 'old' method. Even if its all you have, I still believe that much can be learned from it- even if you learn how NOT to do something. Regardless, doing so rationally with a clear mind is superior to emotional instability. A random emotional response will likely result in similarly poor outcomes as poor training would, and is the exact same as having no training.
Perhaps this adage is relevant here: "You have to learn the rules before you can break them". Without fully understanding why something is being done a certain way, how can you improve on it? Surely not with wild emotional guesswork.
Jess was also kind enough to let me feature her "Letter From a Merchant Marine." Personally, I think she has an extraordinary talent for making complex systems and ideas very easy to think through and gets clear, important messages across. I hope she starts keeping her own blog, or writing publicly in some capacity! The work is brilliant, and I feel very lucky that she comes and hangs out here with us and shares her wisdom.
I completely agree that the "american schema" of the superhero "innovating" in a crisis is not a very good idea if one thinks about the superhero's concrete situation. However, if one thinks more abstractly about individual or social development it makes more sense. For example, with organisations often the only times when fast development is possible, is some kind of crisis. World war 2 is an obvious example with the intense development of technology it brought. A much smaller example is the development of Internet banking in countries, such as Finland, where a banking crisis forced banks to make large savings on staff, and had to do something else than what they had in the past.
I wonder if the source of the american superhero pattern of ignoring training is actually not about life-threatening situations, but something else. It is portrayed in that way for dramatic effect. What it might be describing is the "slow hunch" of someone who is making a breakthrough in thinking. Slowly accumulating evidence / experience is showing you that what you have been taught is not actually true in practice, or only true to a degree. That feels dangerous, because there is no theory to lean on and you are "on your own", because your ideas are heretical, yet you are almost forced to pursue those ideas because they pull you in, or you have tried everything else, and it did not work.
I think much discovery and innovation is like that by nature. You are sure you are right, but the world keeps fighting back at you. You despair, but persist. Then suddenly, you try something different from your training, and the world tilts over into another state where you are suddenly successful.
In hindsight, it is obvious you were right all the time, but at the time it did not feel like that at all.
I finished Robert Ringer's "Winning Through Intimidation" and started reading Yukio Mishima's "The Samurai Ethic of Modern Japan." It's an introduction to and analysis of Hagakure. Hagakure's a 17th Century work on bushido and Japanese samurai ethics and living - I've got some excerpts of it here - "Excerpts from Hagakure, Chapter 1."
Reading Mishima, I realize something about the difference between Japanese and American superheroes and fictional characters.
At the most desperate moments, American fictional heroes tend to win by discarding their training and going with instinct and feelings. You see the hero who was beaten down and whose plans failed, who now "lets go" and thus wins.
At the most desperate moments, Japanese fictional characters win by unleashing and realizing the effects of their training.
A hallmark of Japanese fiction is the hero going through a long training period, but then not quite mastering his skill. Then, at his most desperate moment, the training kicks in to the full extent, and he wins.
71 hours, 58 minutes into my 72 hour fast: I sat at the dinner table, my plate of food steaming in front of me. I didn't know how my stomach would take food, so I decided to start with small, easy to digest foods: Olives, raisins, grapes, assorted nuts, steamed broccoli and some salsa for dipping. I had some chicken prepared and ready to go on the grill, but I was going to give that another hour or so.
Sitting in my chair, I leaned over and inhaled deeply. When you don't eat for a long period of time, your sense of smell intensifies. I had gone to a grocery store earlier that day, and it was intoxicating. Walking into the store was like walking into a brick wall. I was inundated with smell, I just stopped and stood in the entrance, eyes closed, taking it all in. Charlie did the shopping, and I just ran from display to display, leaning over and inhaling deep.
I had two minutes left in my fast, and I spent it with my eyes closed, lost in smell. My phone hit midnight, and I began to eat. I was unsure how my stomach would accept food, so I wanted to take it slow. I ate my dinner nut by nut, raisin by raisin, olive by olive. It took me about an hour to finish my plate, but I enjoyed every bite of food to its fullest. I'd let the grapes sit in my mouth for up to a full minute, absorbing the taste, before biting just enough to let the juice leak out into my mouth. I'd finish cleaving the grape in half, and let the two halves wander around my mouth, saturating my taste buds with flavor. The broccoli dissolved in my mouth, and when ever something was dipped in the salsa my tongue was overwhelmed by the sensation. As I neared the end of my dinner, I grilled a chicken breast. I cleaned my plate of the first course just as the chicken finished, and I probably spent thirty minutes on the single filleted breast of chicken.
I learned a lot from my fast, but not all of it I can put into words. A good deal of it was just learning more about my body, becoming closer and more in tune with it.
The first and most obvious thing I learned was that I can go three days with only water without radically modifying my daily schedule. I led and participated in a parkour conditioning session, I juggled, I biked to and from campus several times, and I led a Taekwondo class. I got an average amount of sleep each night and only took one nap.