State of the Blogger Address

Jazmin's sister has declared that she is moving out. Since moving in, Sis has become increasingly angry over the fact that Jazmin and I do not handle money exactly like she wants us to, do not clean exactly like she wants us to, and do not agree that she should be in charge of everything ever. On top of that, she has picked up the idea somewhere that handling conflicts with "I" statements and continually polling everyone for their opinions is some sort of magic formula, and if she does it absolutely right every time she will be rewarded by getting her way. She is absolutely incensed that, despite all her efforts, we persistently demonstrate free will.

I've been pretty sure it would end this way since the time Sis went out and bought a load of expensive cleaning supplies, unrequested. She more or less bought them at us, and began mentioning them as if she expected to be paid back for them, or at least that she expected us to respond by going out and buying things of equal value, and worked herself into an increasing lather over the fact that the existence of these cleaning supplies did not change Jazmin's and my answer that we did not have the time or energy to apply them the way Sis thought we should, and if it bothered her that much she could do it herself.

Sis has also shown a striking lack of self-awareness, which would be hilarious if she didn't keep trying to inflict it on other people. She sat us down once and informed us that the dishes were not being done often enough for her tastes, using as her prime example the fact that no one had stepped up and washed a frying pan that she had cooked breakfast in the day before, and left on the range. Jazmin and I have an informal arrangement that I cook and she washes, which seems to have translated in Sis's head to either some kind of rota system that we were not letting her in on, or the idea that she got to both dirty the dishes and dictate the timetable on which someone-who-was-not-her cleaned them.

The fundamental problem here is that Sis is twenty-one, has a lot of notions about How To Adult Properly that can only come from never having lived on her own before, and evinces a complete incomprehension of the idea that other people are not her. Sis has no major medical issues, which is wonderful for her, but Jazmin and I both do. We have limited capacity, and often have to prioritize. If you only have enough energy to make food or do dishes, then you eat something and leave the plates in the sink until you can get to them. Sis's idea of "too tired" to do something equates to "it's kind of late and it's incredibly tempting to half-ass things so I can sit down and watch TV". She cannot wrap her head around the concept of "do not currently have enough executive function to figure out the steps necessary to do dishes and carry them out without dropping things, hurting myself on something, or breaking down in tears".

Nobody's super-good at humaning yet when they're 21, and she's irritating the snot out of me, but I don't have to take it personally. I just keep telling her point blank, "No. That's untenable, and I am not going to do it." I am thirty-four years old, I now have official medical orders to not do things that wreck me, and I am finished explaining myself to petulant children. It's taking a much more significant toll on Jazmin, who I think -- not unreasonably -- expected more sympathy and understanding from her own sister.

It's probably not helping Sis's mood any that Jazmin and I genuinely do run a household pretty well together, despite not at all operating to her specifications. When you have a lot invested in Always Being Right, watching other people Be Wrong and muddle along in peace anyway is a big slap in the face.

Frustratingly, the exact same issue is keeping me from having any success at cramming Christian theology into my head. I get partway through the essay, and then I have to give it back to the library before I set it on fire. Not a single writer thus far has shown any awareness that there even exists any way to think, other than their own. All humans yearn to be judged adequate by the authority figure of God, and anyone who claims otherwise is delusional, lying, or intentionally evil. They seem not just unwilling but actually incapable of giving me any decent parameters on or distinctions of their branch of theology, as they refuse to even acknowledge the existence of other modes of thought they might draw comparisons to.

Many of them are just rampant, raging, arrogant assholes about it. The worst ones also sound like they're probably delusional or psychotic, but this is not an excuse. Mental illness gets you a pass on being odd, not on being a complete prick. This is exactly how the word "sanctimonious" went from meaning "possessing qualities of solemn holiness" to "hypocritical in a condescending and self-righteous fashion".

Slate Star Codex actually ran a relevant piece a couple of days ago. You might want to skim the middle chunk if the phrase "primitive cultures" gets your back up. (The only relevant conclusion you need for the rest of the essay is his observation that formal logic is a discipline that builds on itself over generations, so if your society doesn't value formal logic enough to hammer it into your kids' heads, your society, regardless of how intelligent the people in it are, will never produce formal logicians.) It talks about various stages of what's usually called "moral development", but which I think are more accurately characterized as "viewpoints for relating to other people", which may or may not have anything to do with your morals.

You could take a lot of things away from that essay, especially if you also read his links, but what I got was a reminder that there are a lot of people out there who live their entire lives reacting solely to their own feelings about what their community demands of them. Sis for some reason perceives pressure to Adult Properly, and is furious that Jazmin and I are not cooperating, because she sees it as us intentionally refusing to arrange the world so that she stops having unpleasant feelings. If we valued the "community" like we should -- i.e., a peaceful combined living situation -- we would subordinate our own wishes to the prevailing norms, and do as we're told. The idea that perhaps Sis's view of the "community" structure is not objective, not the only possibility, or simply not important to other people has not crossed her mind. She's arguing just like the theologian who knows that everyone secretly longs to meet the standards of his personal God, and consequently knows that anyone who isn't trying is being obstreperous for trivial or malevolent reasons.

The SSC piece also clarified why I find Colbert so compelling when he talks about religion, while other people make me grind my teeth: He specifically does the thing, common among gifted kids of at least reasonable social competence, where he does recognize that other people work differently and, on that basis, wants to initiate a trade. "Hello! I want to exchange information about our brains! In order to demonstrate good faith, I'll share mine first." Quite a lot of people don't operate this way, and look at him blankly when he tries. Despite the fact that religion is a very personal, and often very emotional, subject for him, Colbert can explain his internal experience of it with respect to a shared external frame of reference, and I therefore get it in a way that I don't get at all from the other people I'm trying to read.


  1. Sympathies and best wishes on the roommate situation. I'm guessing Sis expected that she-and-Jazmin would be a team, because [sisters], and you would be the outsider kindly allowed to tag along.

    Remind me why you are trying to learn about Christian theology? Like, is there a particular branch you're interested in?

    1. It wouldn't have worked out like that, no matter who I was. Sis' standards are such that Jazmin would not have been able to meet them regardless, and Jazmin has crashed enough to know she needs to not over-extend herself.

      I was trying to front-load theology into my head so I can follow along next time Colbert starts quoting people. He has clearly come into formal logic via theology and come out the other side into math, whereas I come from math and was trying to come out the other side into religion. I had long since given up on theology as something I would clearly have to enter into a head-space I did not like or want to visit in order to understand, but as it turns out, that isn't true: I get it perfectly well when Colbert talks about how it works for him, which suggests it is not a deficiency in me as a student, but a deficiency in the explanations tendered by most teachers. I am unfortunately finding that Colbert is very nearly the only person who applies the kind of self-reflection to his religion as people like Hofstadter and Feynman and Sacks apply to their humanistic science writing.

      I was attempting to start from the actual beginning, the same way I've poked around in Talmudic and modern Hermetic stuff, but that appears to be a non-starter. I may default to just getting what I can out of G K Chesterton, who was also a kindly and humorous soul, and who understood psychology to boot.

  2. You may find some of the writings of Robert Fulghum help to see Christian Theology from the inside without the arrogance and madness. I found him a useful source for ways to connect to confused Christians challenged by New Ideas. Also, he's amusing.


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