Saturday, September 24, 2011

2 Rules I Live By

Besides the laws of physics (which, frankly, don't need anyone's belief to validate), I basically have 2 other rules I live by, and both of them come from Theodore Sturgeon, a writer almost nobody reads anymore (though everyone should take a crack at More Than Human).

Be that as it may, Sturgeon coined 2 rules that I find myself constantly repeating in a wide variety of situations.

The first of these rules is "Nothing is ever absolutely so." Originally known as Sturgeon's Law but now known as Sturgeon's Corollary (see below), this is an especially useful rule to trot out whenever someone starts making pronouncements of a political or religious stripe. Sturgeon's Corollary is a pithy reminder of the complicated & nuanced nature of the universe. After all, there are places & conditions where even the basic laws of physics break down.

The second rule I live by is "90% of everything is crud." Because of its popularity, this rule replaced the original Sturgeon's Law (see above), and its usefulness comes into play whenever some blowhard (besides me) starts holding forth with their aesthetic judgments, whether it be on music, movies, or whatever.

The point: crap is everywhere and it takes zero effort to point it out. Want to impress me with your acumen? Find something worth praise. And then sing its praises.

In other words, for me to respect your opinion, tell me what you like and why you like it. Doing so is much more difficult than just sitting back and tearing down the creative efforts of others.

So that's basically it: My 2 Rules to Live By. They're not the only rules I have, but they're my starting point.

I've found that dogmatists regard this initial position with horror, so I usually have to reassure them that my personal philosophy also includes such values as "people matter more than things," at which point the faithful generally calm down enough so that we can have a civil conversation.

Now, since the vast majority of people seem to need to name things before they can get comfortable with them, you can call me a "humane pragmatist" if it makes you feel better.

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