“Me: In my opinion it’s really hard to have interesting ideas if you don’t write them down. It’s much, much easier to spot flaws in your reasoning, to add complexity, to take account of -ll- if you write things down.
A friend: I quite agree
Me: It quickly became an argument for keeping my blog alive, back when I wrote a lot of stuff myself rather than leech off the ideas of others as is mostly the case now.
A friend: Why don’t you write more of your own ideas then?
Me: They are not interesting […] I’d much rather share knowledge with other people than [my] ideas.”
I know I shouldn’t quote myself, nor should I quote a friend who has not even agreed to be quoted. But I thought I’d put that out there anyway, because this is probably something people should have realized by now. There are people who happen to be quite good at getting good ideas, good at thinking about stuff. I realized a long time ago that I am not one of those people, and that I would be wise to limit myself to quoting the ideas of the people who know how to get good ideas, and otherwise just keep my mouth shut. Or share data, which amounts to the same thing when it comes to that. I sometimes fail and I open my mouth anyway, and I do it because I like to think about stuff and I do it a lot. But I’m well aware that there are lots of people who are much better at it than I am and that I really should try not to waste people’s time and humiliate myself in the process.
I know, but sometimes I just don’t care, so here’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while. I’m often asked ‘how I feel.’ We all know that question, and we all know how to answer it. Even a person like me is not unaware of the social conventions related to how you’re supposed to approach that question. So I usually answer ‘okay,’ ‘reasonable’, ‘not bad’ or something like that. It’s what people do.
But such questions always bother me a bit. There are two reasons. The first one is the rather obvious one that well, really, most of the time I have no idea how I feel. I need to think about that question in order to answer it, and the amount of time I’d need to give any kind of semi-sensible answer to the question is way more time than the amount of time that is usually allotted to the purpose, given the social context. Perhaps my emotional states are not as readily available to me as they might be to some people. A related concern here is that it is of course very unpleasant to feel the need to answer a question to which you don’t know the answer, and to be placed in a situation where you’re very aware of the fact that you seem to be trying to guess the teacher’s password. This is a situation you generally try to avoid. The problem is perhaps exacerbated even further by the fact that when I actually do spend time thinking about how I’m feeling in other contexts, quite often it is an activity which is predicated upon the fact that I, well, do not feel good at all; and getting asked how you feel when this is the way things usually work can be unpleasant, because getting asked that question can easily remind you that you’re in fact not as happy as you’d like to be. And then it’s easy to mentally jump along to the question of why you’re not as happy as you’d like to be, and most of the time there are lots of good reasons why you don’t seem to have anybody to blame for this sad state of affairs but yourself. But then you might go even further and argue that you do have happy moments sometimes, and that you’ve actually done some work on actively figuring out when they happen, as they happen – ‘this is a pleasurable moment’-type thinking – and what you’re doing when they happen, and this seems to help you and really there’s no good reason why you should not be having such a moment within a short amount of time and… Meanwhile, the person who asked the question is still waiting for an answer.
The other big reason why such questions bother me a bit is that I have no way of knowing if the answer even makes sense to the person to whom I’m responding, even if I do answer truthfully (which would require a complex and rather detailed answer). How do they define ‘feeling good/ok/not bad/reasonable’? I have never looked inside their heads or hearts, I don’t know the emotional range they inhabit very well. Maybe my answer is completely meaningless to them. Do people have well-defined emotional barometers where you can just go have a look and see; ‘oh – so that’s how you feel, 37°, that’s interesting…’ No, they don’t. Even in the best of cases it’s hard to figure out if the answer you give is actually conveying the information you’d like to share. And the real world don’t do with the best of cases, because I usually don’t answer truthfully, a fact I have no problem sharing here. I always have doubts, regrets and self-hatred bubbling under the surface, and I work on keeping those things far away from my own inner monologue; why in the world would I want to bring them out into polite conversations which take place outside my own head, with people who have perhaps no idea what they are getting themselves into?
I’m quite curious as to how people handle and understand their emotional states. Do people actually walk around knowing ‘how they fell’? I know I don’t and I have a hard time imagining that many other people do. It would be nice if people settled upon a different casual conversation starter – most people who ask this question don’t really want to know anyway.