Welcome to the blog of a recovering cognitive miser and a pursuer of personal authenticity!

Have I made you mad yet?

The question, while generally tongue-in-cheek, is not altogether out of place.  Let me explain.

It seems that people are alternately either impressed or irritated/offended/horrified by the questions and conclusions of my research into life’s persistent questions.  It’s not that I try to be offensive, mind you; it just seems that people are easily confused or turned off by the paradigms I hold and the questions and conclusions that such paradigms tend to spawn.  On the one hand, someone might read a post of mine and conclude that I’m an absolute genius.  (Naturally, this normally happens when a post agrees with a position that the reader already holds.)  In these cases, I am typically congratulated for my deep analysis and for pointing out details that the reader may not have recognized previously.

When the same reader begins by chance, however, with one of my posts on some other topic–one on which we do not agree–well, that’s when people tend to get mad.  In these cases, it seems that, rather than giving me the benefit of the doubt, many readers summarily judge me as a raving lunatic, heretic, liar, idiot, or even a paid “shill”, secretly supporting some evil cause or organization!  In such cases, the same sort of deep and principled analysis that would have won me congratulations on the other topic becomes the object of scorn!

Hence, the question:  Have I made you mad yet?

There’s the fundamental question, of course, as to whether I should publish my thoughts at all, knowing that people are so easily put out.  But having cast that lot already in the affirmative, it is my hope that chance leads you first to read an article or two with which you agree, so that you won’t assume (as far too many do) that I’m your enemy!  My hope is for rational (reality-based) discussion of controversial topics, such as the author of this proverb seems to have had  in mind when penning this thought:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” (Dubiously attributed to Aristotle)

Thus would I much prefer an agitated onlooker to say, “After having pondered your idea, Jack, I don’t accept it because of A, B, and C.”  What seems to be much more common in our society, however, are rebuttals like either of the following three examples:

  1. “Na-Ah!” (With no, A, B, or C to follow.)
  2. You’re a _________ and I’m never going to speak to you again.”  Or,
  3. [Crickets chirping]  (This often happens when people aren’t willing to say things like these.)

Anyway, I really like to think.  I like to examine things and to understand them in the full daylight of rationality (that is, thinking that jibes with reality).  I have this crazy idea that it’s probably better not to believe a thing unless the facts, logic, and/or sourcing behind it have been checked out and prove to be sound.  I got a reputation as a thinker way back in high school (if not before), but all I was doing then to earn the reputation was to think a little bit more than I was expected to think—a little more than the next guy.  So it’s not like I had to be thinking very deeply, nor about a wide number of things; I just had to be above average.

There was a huge trap in that, however, and I got stuck for several years where I was not learning at anywhere near the pace I could have been learning, but was instead investing myself vainly in the notion that I knew more than the next guy.  (This is what I call the “Gap Trap“—being caught in the gap between where I used to be and where I could be, and for whatever reason, making very little progress toward the latter.)  Having finally struggled through enough study to overturn a fairly large number of my previous beliefs and understandings, however, I eventually managed to come to the logical realization of what I call Pelham’s Law of Cognitive Error: “I am most likely wrong about many things.”

I now observe that the likelihood of being wrong is usually highest when:

  1. I’m just repeating “what I’ve always heard”.
  2. I haven’t personally vetted the issue, independently confirming it.
  3. It’s an issue that something or other has always bugged me about.
  4. I feel or behave proudly about the particular issue.

I have learned, therefore, to strive to be always thinking, reassessing, and looking for how things fit together (or not!) into the “big picture”.  Somehow, I managed to survive those early years of thinking that I was a thinker, and to get to this point where I’ve achieved at least a rudimentary discipline of vetting and testing an assertion before I believe or publish it.

And that brings me back to where I started this post:  Have I made you mad yet?

I love this observation from humorist Don Marquis (emphasis added):

“If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; But if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.”  ~Don Marquis (1878-1937)

I lived through years of thinking that I was a great thinker, not realizing that a large number of my own beliefs had never been duly analyzed.  I’m certain that in defense of my own presumed wisdom, I shrugged off (or even fought off) a good number of new and valid thoughts from others who challenged those beliefs.  Now, however, I generally welcome the occasion to have someone tackle one of my positions, however emotionally unpleasant that process may be, because it gives me the opportunity either to be further proven right or proven wrong (and to correct myself appropriately).

Welcome, therefore, to my blog, where I write freely about the things I wonder, the objections I have, the things I have discovered or concluded, and the things of interest that I’d like to keep track of.  These are the results of my thinking.  If they help you think, too, I’m glad for it.  And if you can prove any of it wrong, I’m all ears because I, too, am searching to ferret out the facts.

After a couple of requests, I turned on the commenting features of this blog.  Since then, I’ve had one comment (in two months) and about 30 spam comments a week.  Consequently, I now require that commenters be registered and logged in before they may comment.  If you’d rather not go to that trouble, you may always email me through the Contact Page.

And I really mean it—if you find something here to be in error, I’d really like to know about it.

Happy reading!


PS.   Please read my novel; I’ve got something to say!


3 Responses to Welcome

  1. revolucas says:

    You are a very good source of inspiration for anyone who seeks to improve their critical thinking. I found and read a long list of your comments on The Act of 1871 until I came here and read How to Be Criticism-Proof only to find that employ them same tactics when defending something I ‘believe’ to be true. It is an information war out there and it’s very hard to find the truths when you weren’t given the proper skills to find them.

  2. jackpelham says:

    Here’s a response I got via email from a reader named Steve.


    You said that you had won 145 (presumably consecutive) games at the advanced level of Spider Solitaire. Given the fact that you liberally undid moves and restarted games, this is not overly impressive. Furthermore, I’ve read many claims of players who have won many times the number of your winning streak.

    It is not true at any level of Spider Solitaire that “every game is winnable—theoretically.” The mere fact that two decks of playing cards can be arranged in such a fashion as to making winning impossible, is proof. The reason that you were able to win 145 games in a row is due to the fact that so many possible unique games exist (about 10^145 at the advanced level) that the odds of a single game being mathematically impossible to win is extremely remote. Put another way, the odds of anyone winning hundreds (or even thousands) of consecutive games of Spider Solitaire at the advanced level are very much in their favor, providing that they undo moves, restart games, and persevere. Yes, it does take some time and effort.

    You appear to be under the impression that games cannot be won at the advanced level without habitually undoing moves. This is absolutely not true. With this in mind, I challenge you to play any 100 consecutive Spider Solitaire games as presented by the computer (without skipping any of them), do not undo a single move and do not restart a single game, and win 50 or more of the games.

    I assure you this this feat is not only possible, it’s been done. In fact, I have won 55 out of 100 consecutive games at the advanced level on more than one occasion. Yes, this is without undoing a single move and without restarting a single game. If you really do want to learn things that you can relate to the rest of your life, then why don’t you give it a whirl.

  3. jackpelham says:

    Thanks for writing to tell me how unimpressed you are with my article. If you are better at the game than I am, it takes nothing at all away from me or my sense of worth. I wish you all the Spider success in the world. And if you’d like to write back and share how you are able to win, I’ll gladly post your article.

    I do note that your email, while disapproving of what, fails to disprove anything that I wrote. Indeed, you seem to have missed the entire point that what is exceptional here is the diligent EFFORT. You strain against this point as if there were something more important to be said, but then you fail to say it.


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