Why You Can't Be Trusted

#3 Seeing is believing

Hi there,

I hope this email finds you well.

Today’s post has been informed in part by some incredibly impactful books I’ve been reading recently.

They are all equally fascinating and, I feel, worthy of a mention:

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

  • The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As they each draw from different disciplines: history, psychology and storytelling in the main, this post, at times, might seem a little tangential. Nonetheless, I hope it makes sense. 🤞

If you can garner even a hint of insight or enjoyment from reading this post, as I did writing it, the endeavour will have been worthwhile for both of us.

As usual, if you have any thoughts on the piece, or any of my other work, I'd love to hear from you. I’m on email and Twitter.

You Can’t Be Trusted

"We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are”

Anaïs Nin

A large, conniving tom-cat, probably of no-fixed abode, has my house under constant surveillance.  He’s stalking Belle, our over-indulged pussycat. Jealous of her good fortune, the poor wretch probably just wants to beat her up and stake claim to the garden.

Now here’s the controversial bit: I leave food out for the bum-cat.  

I feel sorry for him.  He’s got bald patches and his left ear is floppy. 

“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa?” my friend asks sarcastically, as I place a saucer of milk at the bottom of the garden. 

"If I really was Mother Teresa, I’d be preaching obedience and resignation, not giving out free food.”

A jolt of Catholic guilt jostles my pious friend.

“She’s a Saint!” he replies incredulously. She saved lepers and the destitute from a life of suffering.

“Rubbish!  Her mission was nothing but religious propaganda.  And lucky for her, she wasn't scrutinised nearly half-enough.”

The argument dragged on.  No one conceded. 

Later, I mulled over the argument. It was so benign, it hardly seemed worth bothering, but something irked me.

The truth was obvious, how could my normally open-minded friend not see it?

We both adopted polar opposite, absolutist positions:

*cue pedantic use of tables

Could it be possible, I wondered, we were both equally wrong?

This question dragged me down a rabbit hole into the inner workings of the human mind. The answer I emerged with was an emphatic YES!

Yes, we were both equally wrong because my friend and I are Naive Realists.

In fact, so are you.

And so is everyone else on the planet.

It makes us incredibly unreliable.

Let me explain.

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Things I learned this week

The Keyboard: A Victorian Relic

The keyboard you type with, across every device, was designed in the 19th Century as a means to stop manual typewriter keys from jamming. Despite numerous innovations, it has endured.

If we adopted a more ergonomic system, we could all (after a bit of practice of course) type faster, make less mistakes, be more comfortable, and suffer less RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in the process.

So why, in a productivity obsessed world, do we not we not jump the QWERTY keyboard ship?

Sadly, humans are creatures of habit, clinging doggedly to the familiar.

Then again, perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies. Anything that forces us to slow us down, can’t be all that bad, now can it?


Shakespeare The Inventor

I just read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream while following along to the BBC radio play 

School ruined his work for me, so starting with one of his shortest plays seemed the sensible choice.  

With Shakespeare for Dummies on my lap for moral support, I was like the idiot bringing his intelligent friend to the theatre.  Worse still, I had to constantly interrupt him during the performance with incessant questions.

But to quote Father Ted - “I had my fun and that’s all that matters!'“

One thing that struck a chord with me having read Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare alongside Ben Crystal’s Shakespeare on Toast, Getting A Taste For The Bard, was the sheer quantity of words he invented -  over a thousand at last count.  

Here are a few of I found most surprising:

  • Bare-faced 

  • dwindle

  • swagger 

  • unreal 

  • green-eyed 

  • assassination 

  • addiction

  • bedazzled 

  • cold-blooded

  • dishearten

  • eyeball

  • fashionable

  • scuffle

Imagine contributing even a single word to the English language for posterity, never mind over one thousand!


That’s it for this week.

Thanks so much for reading.

Last week: Montaigne: A Breath Of Fresh Air

Next week: Chop: An Eco Polemic