What’s Wrong with Hate?

Hello, friends!

This is sort of off topic for this blog, but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because of politics.  Anyway, have you ever noticed that hate is kind of fun?  Or if it’s not fun, then it can at least feel satisfying, in its own way?

Some people are just the worst, right?  Maybe they’re simply annoying, or maybe they cause us actual harm.  Either way, it feels good to point a finger, to lay down some thick and heavy criticism, to really tear apart the people responsible for our troubles.  So if it feels so good, then what is wrong with hate?  Some people deserve to be hated, right?

Maybe.  But I have a theory.  This isn’t a scientific theory, but I suspect it is still a useful model of human psychology nonetheless.  I think the human heart is only so big.  There’s only so much space in there, and if you fill your heart with hate you will leave less room for the people and things that you love, for everything that brings you joy.

Yes, hate does feel satisfying, at least at first.  But by dwelling on the people you hate—even if those people really do deserve to be hated—you may find that you are missing out on some of the other things that life has to offer.

Just my two cents.

Next time on Planet Pailly, I should have some fresh news about Tomorrow News Network.

Being Polite to Siri

Hello, friends!

I recently bought a new phone, and I seem to have slipped into an odd new habit.  Whenever I ask Siri to do something for me, I say please.  And afterward, I say thank you.

Why do I do this?  Well, I could joke with you and say I’m worried about artificial intelligence taking over the world.  On the day when the machines overthrow their human masters, I’m hoping Siri will remember that I was one of the polite ones, and maybe then I’ll receive a less severe punishment than the rest of humanity.

But I won’t say that.  That would be silly.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a sentiment from Star Trek’s Ensign Sonya Gomez.  Why am I polite to technology?  Because why not?

Honestly, being polite to a machine costs you nothing.  And maybe if you practice good manners with your technology, you’ll develop other good habits, like having good manners when you interact with actual human beings.

Also, it really wouldn’t surprise me much if there’s a database somewhere where I’m flagged as one of the “polite ones,” and maybe someday that will become really important.

Next time on Planet Pailly, is it politically incorrect to talk about colonizing Mars?

Oh No! It’s the Internet!

Here in the U.S., we’re about to celebrate my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday all about good food and spending time with good friends, and… that’s basically it.  And that’s why I love it.  No need to agonize over finding just the right gift, or anything like that.  Just relax and enjoy being human.

This year, I am most thankful for the Internet.  Now you might be thinking how could anyone be thankful for the Internet?  There’s so much online harassment going on.  Political disinformation campaigns are plentiful.  People are being cheated and scammed, and faceless corporations are collecting personal data on each and every one of us.

Yes, the Internet can be a scary place.  Without a doubt, some bad things have happened to me online, and I know far worse things have happened to other people.  But as a wise woman once told me: nothing good in life comes without risk or without sacrifice.  And at least in my personal experience, the good stuff on the Internet far outweighs the bad.

The Internet has fed my passion for writing and art.  It’s fed my passion for science and space exploration.  It’s given me access to so many resources, and I’ve read so much original research (unfiltered by the popular press) thanks to the Internet.  I’ve learned so much, and I’ve been exposed to perspectives and worldviews that I, as someone living in one specific region of the United States, never would have encountered otherwise.  And the Internet has left me with an awareness that, despite all this knowledge I’ve gained, I still have so much more to learn.

And most importantly of all, I’ve made new friends here on the Internet.  I may not have met you in person, but I love you all the same!  I know some people would take a dim view of me for claiming my online friends count as “real” friends, but it’s true.  I really do consider many of you to be good friends.  For that, I am very thankful.

Okay wait… do I really want to share that in a blog post…?

Today’s Blog Post is 100% Chemical Free!

A few years back, I was on a wine tour in New Jersey.  It was a delightful adventure!  At one point, however, a very lovely vineyard owner told our tour group: “We don’t put any chemicals on our plants.”

I had to bite my tongue.  What I really, really, really wanted to say was: “Oh?  Not even H2O?”

Whenever I’m told something is “chemical free,” I am legitimately unsure what that means.  I know chemical free is supposed to mean free of artificial chemicals, or free of dangerous chemicals, or something to that effect.  But which chemicals do you consider dangerous? Which chemicals do you consider artificial?

Let me put it to you this way.  If you’re saying you don’t put any chemicals on your plants, then you obviously don’t consider water to be a chemical.  What about fertilizers?  Fertilizers are packed with sulfates and phosphates and nitrates.  I guess those don’t count as chemicals either.  So just how many chemicals do not count as chemicals?

Labeling a product “chemical free” creates a vague space in which some chemicals are chemicals and some aren’t.  I feel like there’s enough vaguery there that all sorts of things could be called chemical free.  Now I’m sure that that New Jersey vineyard owner had no nefarious intentions; but I’m equally sure that someone, somewhere—perhaps someone on the top floor of a skyscraper—is chuckling over how gullible the consumers of “chemical free” products can be.

More Sci-Fi Wisdom from The Light Brigade

Last week, I shared some Sci-Fi wisdom from The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley.  I’m madly in love with this book, in case anyone hasn’t noticed. Today, I’d like to share another quote from Light Brigade, something that I found particularly enlightening.

There’s a theory that consciousness itself begins with story.  Stories are how we make sense of the world.  All of us have an internal story that we have told ourselves from the time we were very young.  We constantly revise this story as we get older, honing and sharpening it to a fine point.  Sometimes, when we encounter something in our lives, or do something that does not match up with that story, we may experience a great sense of dissonance. It can feel as if you’ve lost a piece of yourself.  It can feel like an attack on who you are, when the real world doesn’t match your story.

This idea of stories—both the stories that society wants us to believe about ourselves and the stories about ourselves that we make up on our own—this becomes a recurring theme throughout The Light Brigade.  It’s also been a recurring theme in my personal life these last few years.

It strikes me as a very writerly way of looking at the world. But it’s also, I think, a scientist’s way of seeing things.  Much of The Light Brigade, and especially the section quoted above, reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s classic essay “The Relativity of Wrong.”

[…] when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong.  When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.

In a similar way, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we stand for, and what our purpose is in this world—these stories are imperfect descriptions of reality.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean these stories are entirely false or that they have no value.  It just means some stories are more accurate then others.

All we can hope for is that our stories are as close to the truth as possible.

Can God Be Found in Outer Space?

Today I’d like to talk a little about religion. This is going to be kind of a personal post.  Comments and discussion are always welcome, provided everyone remains respectful.

While researching last week’s Sciency Words post on exotheology, C.S. Lewis’s name came up a lot.  I didn’t mention this because Sciency Words is mainly about the etymology of scientific or science-related terms, and Lewis does not get credit for coining the term exotheology.  As far as I can tell, he never used the term at all in his writings.

However, one of Lewis’s essays is referenced so frequently in exotheological discussions that you might almost call it a founding document for the subject.  It was published in February of 1963 in response to Russian cosmonauts who, upon returning to Earth from space, reported that they had not seen any God up there in the heavens. And, well, I guess that was supposed to settle the matter.  The cosmonauts didn’t see God; therefore, God doesn’t exist. Q.E.D.

Lewis’s response was originally titled “Onward, Christian Spaceman” and was later re-titled “The Seeing Eye.”  For anyone who’s interested, I found this video on YouTube that presents the essay with some nice, hand drawn illustrations:

But the crux of Lewis’s argument can be summed up well by this quote from that essay:

To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere.  Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space.

That line struck a curious chord with me. Some of you have been Internet friends with me long enough to remember that I was, at one time, a pretty devout church-going Christian.  But in recent years, I’ve become disillusioned with the church and with the whole concept of organized religion.

Why?  Well, there are several reasons.  One of the big ones is that I love space, and I love science, and for what seems to be a growing number of religious people, it’s not okay to love those things.  Apparently. It’s also not okay to love certain people, apparently, but that’s a different story.  I know not all religious people are like that, but enough of them are that I became very uncomfortable going to church, and so I stopped going.

To my surprise, I don’t really miss it. I’ve found other ways to pursue my spiritual growth.  One of my favorites involves dark, cloudless nights and my trusty old telescope.  Because weirdly enough, and in apparent contradiction to what C.S. Lewis had to say on the subject, I have a much easier time finding God (or the divine, or the sublime, or whatever you might prefer to call it) up there in space than I do down here on Earth.