Archive for September, 2010

No, not that sort of sex you perv – sex as in being male or female (etc). A survey has found that women are less sceptical about climate change than men http://www.springerlink.com/content/llq15510m374583q/fulltext.html.

This concurs with my own experience, which also suggests that men are more vehemently sceptical.  A number of studies into climate denial suggest that it is linked to belief systems, whereby acceptance of an intangible concept creates a requirement to radically change lifestyle or make one ‘traitorous’ to that concept. For instance, if one truly accepts that God exists, how can one carry on a sinful lifestyle and not feel troubled?

The traditional role of man as head of the family, provider of wealth etc still resonates in society today, no matter how out dated this has become in practice. Now, please don’t think I am saying that men are the main movers and shakers in life & women shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about it! Nothing could be further from the truth – I am talking here about perception. However unfortunate, there are still many echos in society relating to the days when men went to work & women kept home. This is entirely anachronous, but there are still a lot of men who feel that it is their duty to protect their family. In the same way that many chaps would consider it their job to confront burglars at night, so many consider it their ultimate responsibility to ensure their family lives well. Perhaps not true, but it is how many men feel.

So, there is psychological pressure on some men to maintain the high quality of life enjoyed by their family, which for many is far easier to do if they continue their consumption patterns and mode of living. After all, many subscribe to the erroneous idea that living sustainable means returning to medieval poverty and eschewing all mod cons. Now, to justify their continued consumptive lifestyle they have to believe that climate change is not happening, as otherwise they would have to face the fact that they are leading their family not into luxury but into turmoil. So they have to be vehement in their denial, to convince both themselves and as many others as possible that they are doing the right thing. There is, after all, safety in numbers; psychological safety, at least.

Personally, I think it goes further than this in the USA, where there are more climate sceptics than anywhere else. This has to do with the American Dream. The USA more or less founded the current consumer capitalist economic system; it is the home of consumerism & has created a global economy of unparalleled success on the back of it. To say that this is no longer a viable system is bound to rub more people up the wrong way in America than anywhere else. To some, their American identity is intrinsically linked to this consumerism, so saying that it is wrong and is causing the destruction of the planet is to attack their belief in themselves and their country. It is heresy.

This is why climate change & religion have so much in common: the most important drivers are not facts & practicalities, but belief and cultural references.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124008307 is a good article on how people accept or reject scientific information, depending on their belief systems or world views.


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In this post I showed (amongst many other spectacularly clever things, of course) that ‘infinity’ and ‘endless’ are not the same. It is possible for something to go on for ever, but if it started it is not infinite: reverse the direction of travel and the start becomes a finish. For something to be infinite, it must be endless in all directions. Or, to put it another way, it must be endless in all dimensions.

Now, my physics is not great, but I gather that it is likely that the universe is composed of more than the four basic dimensions in which we humans work. Now, all our concepts of reality and more or less all of our maths concerns four dimensions: three directions and time. Sometimes things are simplified to deal with only 3, 2 or even 1 dimension at a time, but they are always set within our concept of reality that holds 4 dimensions. All concepts of infinity involve four or fewer dimensions; usually fewer as most people leave time out of discussions on infinity.

So, whenever we talk about something being infinite, we are actually talking about something being endless within a limited number of dimensions. Unless we can show that something is endless IN EVERY DIRECTION, it is not infinite. Or rather, it may be infinite, but we cannot show that it is.

Within the realms of the universe we can perceive and understand, everything in finite.

Well, that it how it appears to me, anyway. If you have any views or better knowledge on this, please let me know as I would appreciate some help here.

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“Don’t give yourself a hard time about getting things wrong: to err is human. Be kind to yourself (and others) so that you have room to change for the better.”

It’s about 11pm & I was thinking about going to bed, when my mind got working on the concept of kindness. So here I am downstairs tapping away at my blog. To get in the spirit I have poured myself a wee whisky, even though I have already cleaned my teeth!
Such rash, anarchic exuberance!
Well, anyway. Being kind starts at home, with yourself. Most people, especially women, are not very kind to themselves. We expect so much of ourselves, one thorny part of which is the expectation to achieve our expectations.
We live in an age of Hello Magazine. OK, there are lots of other magazines,papers, TV programs, films etc etc etc, but Hello sums it up quite well. At least I think it does, since I don’t often read/watch much of that kind of stuff so am not an authority. It might sound like I’m being all cultural & high brow by saying this, but it’s actually much simpler than that – I just can’t be arsed with any of it. Anyway, the point is that Hello (et al) pedal the idea of perfect lives led by perfect people. Beautiful, cool, rich, successful, funny, interesting, sexy people that are so much better than we are & who live such better lives. It is almost impossible not to aspire to have some of that: to be those people.
Unfortunately, they don’t exist. To start with, the pictures are engineered to be highly flattering or are actually doctored, so give a sheen of beauty to the most haggard of munters. Then the stories are selective in what they portray, exaggerating the heroic & interesting and missing the boring bits or dull depression. Finally, think about why the story is in the magazine in the first place: with billions of people on the planet, there will always be something worth reporting happening to someone that the buying public will pay to read about. It’s just the odds game that it’s not you.
So, this rather leads to a society where people want to emulate the (secretly fictitious) people they read about. They want to be perfect. Perfect in looks, in body, in mind, in aspiration. In fact, we get to the point where we expect it of ourselves. We feel we have failed if we are not gorgeous to look at, toned, tanned & young. We have failed if we are not funny, if people do not flock to our company & hang on our every word. We have failed if we do not wear clothes that emphasis our stunning good looks in a way that is cunningly fashionable yet slightly quirky & unpredictable. We have failed if we are not rich & successful in whatever we do. We have failed if we are not extraordinary.
This is, of course, a shame as the vast majority of us are ordinary. By definition, really.
So what I am saying is give it up. Let yourself off. Be kind to yourself. If it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit podgy, a bit thick, a bit dull or a bit poor, then oddly you probably won’t be. At least, not to the people to whom it matters, the people that you will enjoy being with & who will be true friends to you. By giving yourself space to fail, you can try whole heartedly to succeed as it will not be catastrophic if you don’t.
Take a moment to visualise this: there are no boundaries to what you can try to do, as there are no repercussions for failure (obviously within bounds of moral & legal decency, for those of you going “aha! But what if I tried to……”). Just put yourself in that situation, where whatever you do you will be OK. What would you attempt? Where would you go? What would you try to change?
OK, once you have come back down from the space station or finished dismantling government, you can still get some of that euphoric freedom simply by being kind to yourself, albeit in a rather more realistic and manageable way. If you are truly kind to yourself you can be happy with falling flat on your face, as you will be full of self-forgiveness. Having fun & having a go become so much more important than succeeding, which gives you space to become content. Possibly to succeed too, but that won’t be important any more once you’re content.
As an added benefit, others laughing at you become a minor irritation or actually quite fun in itself.
An example of kindness is my hair. I’m getting a little bit older now & my hair is not quite as rumbustious as it once was. I struggled for a while both with the disappearing hair and the fact that this bothered me, as it shouldn’t: it’s just vain silliness. Then I gave in, admitted that it did & that it was alright to be a bit vain & neurotic, so bought some hair-helping shampoo. It’s got caffeine in it, so as a bonus I am sort of main-lining coffee through my scalp. Anyway, now I have it I have relaxed & don’t mind any more about either the Shiny Scalp Syndrome or my incipient vanity. Hell, with jutting jaw, rippling muscles & sparkling eyes, who wouldn’t be a bit vain? (I assume here that neither of you reading this have actually seen me).
None of us are perfect. Very, very, very few of us are actually beautiful. But most of us are attractive and would be more so if we allowed ourselves to be. Allow yourself your flaws & you will become an attractive person through being content. Why? Because you will have become what even the most rich & famous out there want to be: content, centred, enlightened. Even that Holy Grail of modern psychological achievement – Confident!
People find this attractive as it is infectious: once you have allowed yourself to become content, you will be well placed to help others find the ability to be kind to themselves and become content too.
But please just remember, being kind to yourself does not mean giving up & becoming a slob. It usually means giving yourself room to try harder, as there is truth in the saying ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’.
Well, maybe just one more wee whisky to read through with!

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