I was at a community game night recently and got roped into a table of Dungeons & Dragons. Only the young dungeonmaster had D&D experience, and she was obviously having a blast while the rest of us were mystified at first and ultimately bored.
Knowing she just had to be a fan of the Netflix series, I asked her, “Have you watched Stranger Things?” (which is set in the 1980s and opens with Our Four Geeky Middle School Heroes engaged in a game of D&D, whose final move segues into related mayhem and mystery).
“I watched the first season and liked it a lot,” our gamemaster sniffed, “but now that it’s become so popular I don’t know that I’m going to watch season two.”
“It’s still great,” I shrugged. Inside I was laughing — partly at her proud geek snobbery, but mostly at myself. I flashed on all the times I thought I was ahead of the crowd, outside of the crowd, and hopefully better than the crowd — then dropped some interest like a hot rock when the crowd suddenly rushed in, ruined the thing and, demolished my outsider cool.
Some of us so much want to avoid being part of the crowd that we’d let the crowd dictate what personal pleasures we’re allowed to enjoy.
A few days later, an acquaintance told me about his remarkable near-death experience — after which he immediately quit smoking, got in shape, and dropped 50 pounds.
I gave him the kudos he deserved. But I also thought about the ND survivors who do the opposite. You and I might take near death as a warning to shape up (physically or spiritually or both). But apparently a significant minority of survivors will drink more, smoke more, eat worse, party harder, and generally do even more of whatever led them into trouble in the first place. Their reasoning: “I should be dead. This extra time is a freebie, and I’m going to take it to the max!”
Get extra life; use it for advanced self-destruction. I guess it makes sense to somebody.
A woman I knew got badly hurt in a phony tax avoidance scheme. Thereafter, she became a righteously feared scourge of every such schemer and scammer who dared show his face. With research, facts, and blistering rhetoric she shredded their claims.
Yet all the while, she continued to fall for every shady multi-level marketing scheme and baseless “prosperity” scam that dropped in front of her — and she tried to drag friends into them, too.
She could not see that they were the very same thing she was so vigorously and intelligently opposing.
The telegenic fraudster Uri Geller used to have an assistant who’d help him pull off his famous “authentic” psychokinetic deeds. One act of fakery I recall was the assistant walking down the street behind Geller and an interviewer, tossing spoons into the air so they’d “magically materialize” in front of his boss and the presumably dazzled and bamboozled third party.
I’m going by memory on this one, but the assistant eventually got so fed up that he revealed many details of the frauds in a tell-all. (Though amateur magician Johnny Carson, teamed in 1973 with professional magician James Randi, did the initial, well-deserved hit on Geller.)
But here’s the catch: Although the assistant knew Geller was a fraud, was privy to deep details of the fakery, and was even engaged in an expose — if he hadn’t been in on a particular trick himself, he still believed it was real telekinisis. In one case, he left Geller sleeping in an apartment and returned to find his employer “still sleeping.” But somehow a large potted plant had moved from inside the apartment to the hallway outside. Proof of true psychic power! It could only have been done by Geller’s amazing mind while he slept!
“Miraculous powers” are so strikingly trivial — and P.T. Barnum (or whoever really said that about the frequency of suckers) was so right.
Oh, and some people thought Carson and Randi’s beautiful debunking of Geller was “unfair” to the sensitive, magical soul. It didn’t hurt his career at all.
We are a remarkably strange species.
For folly, you could also point to the infamous folks who move from some statist hellhole to a freer place, then immediately start agitating for the very sort of laws, regulations, and enforcement practices that create statist hellholes.
That seems to be mostly ignorance — merely a common failure to connect cause with effect. But it sure is ignorance of most shockingly willful variety. And way beyond merely self-destructive.
And how about governments everywhere, whose promises and programs fail every time, but whose extravagant claims millions still fall for?
Then there’s “democratic socialism,” the Green New Deal, and oddest of all, Modern Monetary Theory. All as impossible as pink unicorns, all appealing to people in a position to know better.
Yep, we’re strange. And we so often seem to adopt our destructive strangeness on purpose.
I have nothing more to say about it than that. Just a humble, pocket-sized observation that humans are pure wonders of self-willed self-deception when they set their minds to the task. Which is a blatantly unoriginal statement, of course, but I thought these were interestingly diverse examples of the trait.
Maybe you whip-smart readers, will have something to add.