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Thursday, February 1, 2024

John Higgs on being careful about what you write

John Higgs (photo by Isaac Higgs)

John Higgs has released another newsletter, and in one section of it, he has an essay, "Be Careful What You Write," that reminds me a little bit of RAW's "Cosmic Schmuck Principle." 

Here is the principle, articulated in the title essay of NATURAL LAW: Or Don’t Put A Rubber On Your Willy And Other Writings From A Natural Outlaw:

"The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don't wake up, once a month at least, and realize you have recently been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again, then you will probably go on acting like a Cosmic Schmuck forever; but if you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, you might begin to become a little less Schmucky than the general human average at this primitive stage of terrestrial evolution."

John's argument is that writers can trick themselves into thinking something is true, by the act of writing:

"I did learn something useful from writing that piece, though. While I saw it as a bit of a lark as I was writing it, I found that afterwards I stood by it and believed in its argument - regardless of whether anyone else did. It fitted my prejudices and baggage and I found it convincing. This taught me to be careful as a writer, because when you write something down, you trick yourself into thinking that it’s true.

"Normally you have a whole mess of differing thoughts and contradictory ideas sloshing around in your head, and the amount of credibility you grant them varies from day to day. The act of writing something down turns a fluid and changeable notion into something definite and fixed, and this seems to trick the mind into thinking that it’s true. You no longer have to worry about it anymore. You just stand by it.

"This effect can be positive. Practices like writing affirmations and journaling can be helpful for these reasons. But in the world of social media, it can send you very wrong indeed. Much is made of the impact of algorithms on people getting lost down increasingly extreme rabbit holes of belief, but I suspect that simply typing your opinions down is also a significant factor."

More here. 

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