Brian Dispenses Unsolicited Wisdom on the Occasion of His 32nd Birthday

Yesterday I wrote that I was turning 33. That wasn’t a typo — I really was mixed up about how old I was. (The years are starting to run together!) But no, I’m 32 now. That’s 2^5 years, or 100,000 in binary!

Anyway. Unsolicited wisdom:

  • The fuel gauge in your car has a little arrow that points to the side of the car that the fuel tank is on. You’re welcome.
  • Learn how your government works. If you’re American, learn about the Constitution, about legislative vs. executive vs. judicial, about local vs. state vs. federal. Know who your representatives are. Not only is this Fairly Important Stuff, it will also make you seem Fairly Smart.
  • When someone discovers something embarrassing about you, just own it. Trying to downplay or hide such things usually makes them worse. Just say, “Hell yeah, I posted My Little Pony fan fic for three years in college under the screen name PonyBro1337. Want me to read you a story?” You’d be surprised how quick the conversation usually turns to something else.
  • If you’re a writer, your mantra should be — like a heartbeat — keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. The best way to write an excellent novel is to write four bad ones and two mediocre ones first.
  • Take fifteen minutes and learn about Graham’s number. (There’s a good breakdown here, or check out the Wiki page or this Scientific American article.) The first time you read about it, you can almost hear the scraping and cracking as your mind is forced to expand its conception of what a number can be.
  • As blog reader Anthony Lee Collins pointed out last year, flossing is important.
  • Every now and then, enter a conversation and really listen to what the other person is saying. Very often we’re only half paying attention — either distracted, or bored, or planning what we’re going to say next. If you flush all that out and deeply pay attention, really engage, people notice — and you may be surprised at what you learn.
  • We keep using the word “hate” to refer to racism and other kinds of prejudice. Sometimes that’s justified. But I think less than half of all prejudice (in the U.S., at least) really involves hate. The majority, I think, comes from living your life on the default settings.
  • On Saturn’s moon Titan is an entire sea of liquid methane called the Kraken Sea. I don’t know if that fact counts as wisdom or not, but it’s pretty damn cool.
  • Hating yourself for being stupid or selfish or ugly is like being out at sea and cursing at your boat. First of all, your boat is probably fine; but more importantly, even if your boat does suck, you’re missing the point. It’s your boat. It’s the thing that makes you not-dead, not-in-the-abyss, and it’s the only one you have. Get out your compass, pick a direction, and start rowing already. (Obviously, this is much easier said than done; believe me, I’ve been there.)
  • When you’re writing, try this experiment. A phrase will pop into your mind. Rather than writing it immediately, think of another way to say it, then another, then another, and then choose from all your options. I find it’s relatively uncommon that my first idea is my best.
  • That said, if you do this constantly, you will make yourself crazy, especially on a first draft. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.
  • If you want someone to like something that you like — a movie, a novel, an album — always, always undersell. Just be cool, set expectations low. Nothing is more likely to cause disappointment than saying THIS IS THE GREATEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS.
  • Hate and love are not symmetrical. Ignorance tends toward hate. Understanding tends toward love. If you merely get smarter, you can remain loving or hateful; but if you get wiser, you will tend toward love.
  • At some point in your life, you will hear this advice: Dance like nobody’s watching. This works well as a metaphor. If we are talking about actual dancing, you should only follow this advice if you are good at actual dancing.
  • There’s always somebody out there who has it worse than you. That doesn’t invalidate your own suffering. Take care of yourself. (On the other hand, it doesn’t remove their suffering either.)
  • If you copy and paste text into a web browser (into an email, for instance), you can remove the formatting by doing Ctrl+Shift+V.
  • There’s a duplicate Psalm! No joke, Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are almost verbatim the same. Again, I’m not sure if that counts as wisdom, but isn’t it wild?
  • Speaking of which: If someone says they understand the Bible, they are lying to you. Think about how hard it is to deeply understand the U.S. Constitution, and that’s only a page long, written in English, only a few hundred years ago, with a single authoritative and original manuscript. The Bible is thousands of pages, more than fifty separate texts, all thousands of years old, in three separate ancient languages, by many different authors, in many different genres, in many separate ancient cultural contexts, with no authoritative manuscripts. Even scholars who spend their whole lives studying the Bible still say things like, “My focus is on the New Testament, so take my opinion on Deuteronomy with a grain of salt …”
  • Babies are weird. Like, what is a baby thinking? Nobody knows.
  • Having a birthday doesn’t actually make you any wiser. Be careful taking advice from people on the Internet — they’re frequently wrong. Have a nice day!

One response to “Brian Dispenses Unsolicited Wisdom on the Occasion of His 32nd Birthday

  1. With regard to your next to last bullet on babies, I find that pets are much the same. I often wonder what my dog is thinking.

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