Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Topic: Philosophy

"A man who feels no fear will never know courage."

I think a lot of people get undeservingly praised for their fearlessness. Being fearless is not the same as being courageous. For example, a person who has no fear of getting into fights, is not always courageous. In many cases, by engaging in fights, they would actually be succumbing to their true fear, and that's losing their reputation, and being accused of cowardice or weakness. Courage is about being able to control our fears, and act independently of them, rather than not feeling them.

I believe it can be a blessing that we feel fear. Not only does it protect us from recklessness, but it gives us a chance to gain a lot of knowledge from our experiences. Even in situations where self-confidence is essential, being fearful to some degree is a good thing. A reckless driver will not learn from their mistakes nearly as quickly as a careful one, for example, and a fearless public speaker will make a fool of himself.

Bottom line, instead of looking at our fears – and our flaws in general – as disadvantages, we can look at them as an opportunity for growth. With the knowledge we gain dealing with our flaws, we have an opportunity to surpass those who never had those weaknesses. There's usually a lot more to slow learners than what meets the eye. I believe this is one of the reasons autistic people often end up being geniuses, despite their slow start.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Knowledge and experience

"Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience."

Imagine two pingpong players. One of them spends all his time studying the game from text, and the other one spends the same amount of time playing. It's fairly obvious who will become more knowledgeable on the game. This applies to pretty much everything in life. In order for information to become knowledge, one needs to experience it.

A person who seeks knowledge through information will never truly understand. Meaning, you can never truly learn something by just reading or listening. The stories are limitless. How many people change their presumed perspective on a topic once they gained experience in it? How many technologies were thought to be completely useless or impractical before they became an essential part of everyday life?

A lot of people grow ignorant, because they ignore their experiences instead of taking the opportunity to learn as much as they can from them, or in other cases, they would focus on avoiding mistakes rather than learning. A crucial part of gaining experience is making mistakes, and if we don't acknowledge our mistakes and ponder them, we won't learn.

Unfortunately, in most cases, schools tend to teach students to learn from our textbooks and lectures. They tend to teach them to strive for academic success by absorbing as much information as possible, instead of striving to be of value by creating their own knowledge through experience. Although students are taught to solve as many problems as we can in some subjects, the amount of experience they gain is limited by the consequences set for making mistakes, and hence, the discouragement of creativity. Granted, it's a complex matter, and the educational system all over the world still has a lot of evolving to go through.

This why academic success does not necessarily lead to the success of one's career, and lack of academic success does not always lead to the failure of one's career; in fact, a surprising number of great people were actually academic failures. But that's not to say that schools do more harm than good. As long as we are aware and willing, it's not too hard to gain knowledge from what we study.

Albert Einstein once said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Imagination is a powerful tool that can be used to gain knowledge from our experiences, and even others' experiences. If I were incapable of creating my own experience, then I resort to listening to, reading about, and ultimately imagining, the experiences of others. If I wanted to learn about a certain job for example, I'd ask others who've had a similar job to share their physical and psychological experience, and then imagine it, and imagine myself in his or her place, and then I'd be able to make a fair judgment whether this job is suitable for me or not. This is a far better way than to gain as much information as possible about the job.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Arrogance and Insecurity

Topic: Philosophy and Psychology

"Arrogance is but a closet for those in denial of their low self-esteem."

Why do arrogant people refuse to consider other points of view? It's not because they don't think they're worth listening to. A truly confident man would have no problem with exploring opinions that differ from his. An arrogant man on the other hand, would rather stay away from them. They block themselves from anything that disagrees with them, in fear of having to accept their own weakness. They will deny that they care about what you think of them or their opinions, but their denial is a compensative reaction to their insecurity. They may adapt a sarcastic attitude, which is, at its core, nothing but a response to a threat to their self-image. You may become a target of their sarcasm – or negative speech in general – for a while, which would indicate a lingering sense of insecurity, triggered by something you said or did—sarcasm is an easy method for self-assurance.

In most cases, sarcasm as an attitude is a manifestation of arrogance. Of course, sarcasm nowadays is an art that people enjoy learning, but that's largely because they enjoy the attention sarcasm is capable of generating, and that desire for attention also leads back to insecurity. Often, sarcasm is done for mere amusement – and such is the case with comedians – and that's what most sarcastic people would like to convince themselves they're doing, but that's rarely the case in mean-spirited sarcasm. The difference between the two types of sarcasm is in the target. Arrogant sarcasm focuses on specific targets, and therefore is usually hostile and crude. "Fun" sarcasm focuses on the art of sarcasm itself, and not a specific target, and hence is usually more tasteful and clever.

There's nothing wrong with feeling insecure, but what's wrong is letting it affect you. Weak people allow their insecurities to make them miserable. Arrogant people deny their insecurity, directly or indirectly, and the more they emphasize on denying it, the clearer it is. The healthy attitude, of course, is to find ways to keep it under control.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


"A man who feels no fear will never experience courage."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Emotional Diagram

This is a work in early progress. I hope someone finds it useful somehow. Sometimes I can't stop thinking about my emotions, and why I'm feeling what I'm feeling, so I drew this diagram to help me understand myself.

There's no starting point. It's just about how one emotion could evolve into another. For example, let's say you feel betrayed when a friend of yours does something bad beyond your expectations for them. That feeling turns into bitterness. Bitterness causes an emotional build-up that would make you depressed, and want to cry. It would also be likely to adjust your personality to some degree, to handle such situations better or to prevent them from occurring again, like becoming less trusting. The bitterness may turn into anger, and even rage, leading to recklessness, and ultimately, violent vengeance in the worst cases

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Openness of the Mind

Topic: Psychology and Philosophy

It's interesting how condescending people can be regarding disagreeing points of view. There are two issues with this attitude. The first one is moral, and the second one is intellectual. A lot of these people don't care about the moral aspect, but the bigger issue is that the majority of them try too hard to justify their behavior, which leads us to the second, more comprehensive problem: Close-mindedness.

I believe that close-mindedness is the most intellectually limiting trait a person can have. It gives birth to arrogance, which limits the ability to learn pretty much anything. The way I see it, open-mindedness is the most important trait that separates the average person from the genius.

Here are a few of Albert Einstein's traits which hint at that.

1. Curiosity: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”. Curiosity, the genuine desire to learn. Genuine curiosity implies open-mindedness. You aren't curious if you aren't willing to look outside of your point of view.

2. Imagination: "Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imaginative people have no trouble comprehending outer points of view. Being quick to dismiss other points of view is limiting one's imagination.

3. Experience: "Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience". People often depend on information rather than knowledge to judge other points of view, and that is close-mindedness. If you don't "know" much about the other point of view, then the correct thing to do is to be openminded to the actual knowledge that creates it. Someone somewhere gained knowledge through experience on a certain topic, and embraced a point of view. Without that knowledge and experience, you can't be fully aware of the validity of their point of view. It's similar to how some currently popular technologies were ridiculed by the close-minded until people actually experienced them, such as the mouse.

4. Striving for value: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value", and "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”. This one is about accepting new ideas, rather than a conflicting point of view. A lot of people are close-minded to new ideas out of fear. Fear of foolish failure caused by accepting a new idea. But success shouldn't be our main objective, and shouldn't prevent us from taking risks. What's important is that our experiences be of value. If Einstein strove for mere success by avoiding anything that could lead to mistakes, he might have succeeded in becoming a good scientist, but his creativity would have been wasted. His knowledge was a result of countless risks taken.

There's a saying: "Don't be too open-minded, or your brain might fall out". That's something I call "Close-mindedly open-minded", which is really just a delusion of open-mindedness.

The bottom line is, be open-minded, and try to make use of any point of view in any topic you're interested in; that's your best chance to be of real value.