Friday, October 31, 2014


To err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish. – Ben Franklin

Chocolate Cake Resistance

It is now a well-established proposition that both self-control and cognitive effort are forms of mental work. Several psychological studies have shown that people who are simultaneously challenged by a demanding cognitive task and by a temptation are more likely to yield to the temptation.

Imagine that you are asked to retain a list of seven digits for a minute or two. You are told that remembering the digits is your top priority. While your attention is focused on the digits, you are offered a choice between two desserts: a sinful chocolate cake and a virtuous fruit salad. The evidence suggests that you would be more likely to select the tempting chocolate cake when your mind is loaded with digits.

People who are cognitively busy are also more likely to make selfish choices, use sexist language, and make superficial judgments in social situations. A few drinks have the same effect, as does a sleepless night. The self-control of morning people is impaired at night; the reverse is true of night people. Too much concern about how well one is doing in a task sometimes disrupts performance by loading short-term memory with pointless anxious thoughts.

The conclusion is straightforward: self-control requires attention and effort.

Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Savage Love

It may be objected that marriage must then be simply ‘the grave of love’. It would be more accurate to echo Croce and say that ‘marriage is the grave of savage love’ and more often the grave of sentimentality.

Savage and natural love is manifested in rape. But rape, like polygamy, is also an indication that men are not yet in a stage to apprehend the presence of an actual person in a woman. This is as much as to say that they do not know how to love. Rape and polygamy deprive a woman of her equality by reducing her to sex. Savage love empties human relations of personality.

On the other hand, a man does not control himself owing to lack of ‘passion’ (meaning ‘power of the libido’), but precisely because he loves and, in virtue of his love, will not inflict himself. He refuses to commit an act of violence which would be in the denial and destruction of the person. He thus indicates that his dearest wish is for the other’s good. His egotism goes round via the other. This, it will be granted, is a notable revolution.

And we may now pass beyond that altogether negative and privative statement of Croce’s and at last define marriage as the institution in which passion is ‘contained’, not by morals, but by love.

Denis de Rougemont
Love in the Western World

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Be nothing

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

Being Remade Through Music

Students tend to spend hours a day plugged into their tunes. Their musical lives may well be their spiritual lives. It makes them feel more vital, vigorous, intense. Usually it's about getting your emotions packaged for you, quieting the static inside, fabricating an exciting identity (the gangsta, the hipster) to counteract one's commitment to a life of secure banality.

Most music listening, like most reading, is passive. It's about girl watching rather than woman wooing, which is a tougher game. Schopenhauer says that most reading is letting other people think your thoughts for you. I'd add that most music listening is about letting other people feel your feelings for you.

Feel them for yourself, I say. Then shout them out loud. And sing them too. Do it for your own pleasure. It doesn't matter whether anyone is listening.

Mark Edmundson writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Love is Slow and Difficult

It may be said that fidelity secures itself against unfaithfulness by becoming accustomed not to separate desire from love. For if desire travels swiftly and anywhere, love is slow and difficult; love actually does pledge one for the rest of one’s life, and it exacts nothing less than this pledge in order to disclose its real nature. That is why a man who believes in marriage can no longer believe seriously in ‘love at first sight’, still less in the ‘irresistible’ nature of passion…which is an alibi invoked by the guilty.

Denis de Rougemont
Love in the Western World

Monday, October 27, 2014

New starts

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. - Carl Bard

Prone to Cheating

Dan Ariely contends that the vast majority of people are prone to cheating. He also thinks they are more willing to cheat on other people’s behalf than their own. People routinely struggle with two opposing emotions. They view themselves as honourable. But they also want to enjoy the benefits of a little cheating, especially if it reinforces their belief that they are a bit more intelligent or popular than they really are. They reconcile these two emotions by fudging—adding a few points to a self-administered IQ test, for example, or forgetting to put a few coins in an honesty box.

The amount of fudging that goes on depends on the circumstances. People are more likely to lie or cheat if others are lying or cheating, or if a member of another social group (such as a student wearing a sweatshirt from a rival university) visibly flouts the rules. They are more likely to lie and cheat if they are in a foreign country rather than at home. Or if they are using digital rather than real money. And people are more likely to break their own rules if they have spent the day resisting temptation: dieters often slip after a day of self-denial, for example.

What can be done about dishonesty? Harsh punishments are ineffective, since the cheat must first be caught. The trick is to nudge people to police themselves, by making it harder for them to rationalise their sins. For example, Mr Ariely finds that people are less likely to cheat if they read the Ten Commandments before doing a test, or if they have to sign a declaration of honesty before submitting their tax return. Another technique is to encourage customers to police suppliers: eBay, an online marketplace, hugely reduced cheating by getting buyers to rank sellers.

Adrian Wooldridge writing in The Economist

Friday, October 24, 2014

Demading Love

Though I want and need love, I won’t demand it. -Les Carter

Our Willingness to Risk

People with a phobia about being struck by lightning place such a heavy weight on the consequences of that outcome that they tremble even though they know that the odds on being hit are tiny.

Gut rules the measurement. Ask passengers in an airplane during turbulent flying conditions whether each of them has an equal degree of anxiety. Most people know full well that flying in an airplane is far safer than driving in an automobile, but some passengers will keep the flight attendants busy while others will snooze happily regardless of the weather.

And that's a good thing. If everyone valued every risk in precisely the same way, many risky opportunities would be passed up. Venturesome people place high utility on the small probably of huge gains and low utility on the larger probability of loss. Others place little utility on the probably of gain because of their paramount goal is to preserver their capital. Where one sees sunshine, the other sees a thunderstorm. Without the venturesome, the world would turn a lot more slowly. Think of what life would be like if everyone were phobic about lightning, flying in airplanes, or investing in star-up companies. We are indeed fortunate that human beings differ in their appetite for risk.

Peter Bernstein
Against the Gods

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Real Love

When a man is faithful to one woman, he looks on other women in quite another way, a way unknown to the world of Eros; other women turn into persons instead of being reflections or means. This ‘spiritual exercise’ develops new powers of judgment, self-possession, and respect.* The opposite in this of an erotic man, a steadfast man no longer strives to see a woman as merely an attractive or desirable body... he feels, as soon as tempted, he has been desiring only an illusory or fleeting aspect of what is actually a complete life. Thus temptation recedes disconnected instead of making itself into an obsession; and fidelity is made secure by the clear-sightedness it induces.

(*‘Respect’, as I use the word here, means that we recognize in a being the fullness of a person. A person, according to Kant’s famous definition, is what cannot be used by man as an instrument or thing.)

Denis de Rougemont
Love in the Western World

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thinking and Acting

Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought. – Henri Bergson

We are Loved!

We’ve heard a thousand times that God loves us. But one day the meaning hit us. WE ARE LOVED. Really loved! Not just for what we can do, or what we have, tor what we have to offer. Not out of pity or obligation.

People love like that. They love what they think we are. We all know that about each other. We play games to keep it that way.

We try to always show the side of ourselves that we think people love us for. And we have learned form harsh experience that if we don’t, we lose! (People can change their minds about loving us.)

Sometimes we play our games very well. Sometimes we fool everyone except ourselves, and deep inside we say, “You love me… But if you really knew, you wouldn’t.”

I think some of us have a hard time even liking ourselves. We think we don’t have enough to offer, and that makes it hard to love anyome else! Giving is then conditional, tentative. There is a wall of protection… that tough shell of “I’m not going to let you hurt me.”

We all know folks who aren’t very easy to work with because they don’t feel loved. They’re defensive and wary, often depressed and pessimistic.

But if we could all really see that God – the perfect, great omnipotent creator and orginal cause of the whole universe – really, loves us.. that “the One who knows us best, loves us most,” it would change our lives! God, whom we have wronged the most, loves us - and has found a way to come to where we are… and forgive us! No person, no power, no circumstance, no situation,, no station in life, nobody’s opinion – nothing- can ever make us fell unloved again. We are of value. WE have been redeemed. We are totally, unreservedly, forever LOVED!

We can dare to love back! We can risk hurt or rejection. We can try again, and even if we fail, we can win. We are loved by the only person whose opinion ultimately matters. We can LOVE. We can love even those who haven’t “earned” it. Even those who reject it. Even those who don’t need it. (Who’s that?!) We are loved!

Bill Gaither

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Digital Dating and Divorce

You are three times more likely to divorce if you met online instead of face-to-face, according to researchers at Michigan State University. They also say online daters are nearly 30 percent more likely to break up in the first year. It might have to do with how each person first approaches the relationship. Nearly everyone who uses dating apps and websites immediately begins by looking for false information in their prospective partner’s profile. The researchers believe suspicion damages the relationship at an early stage. You'll find more details in the online journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why things go wrong

Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be. – Charles T. Jones