Exile Lifestyle

by Colin Wright

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Unhoned Opinions

Most of our opinions are raw, unfinished things; borrowed concepts we lifted or copied from somewhere. Sometimes they’re ideas we were given at birth, in school, or by a friend at some point in our lives.

That’s not to say they’re wrong — an opinion isn’t fact, and therefore can’t be wrong — but they might very well be inaccurate for us and what we believe. It may be that our opinions aren’t ours in the sense that they represent our worldviews and morality, but instead in the sense that we defend them, standing our ground with appropriated counter-arguments and remixed Socratic soundbites.

To have unhoned opinions of this sort and to defend them this way isn’t the mark of a fool or follower. Holding opinions that don’t align with our beliefs and ideals just means we haven’t gotten around to assessing and refining that particular aspect of our acknowledged perspective yet.

It may be that I’ve yet to change my self-perception based on a realization I had recently. It may be that I simply haven’t thought very hard about the repercussions of new knowledge I’ve acquired, or how changing my mind about one thing might necessitate changing my mind about another if I’m to avoid hypocrisy.

Opinion-misalignment is common because fixing it requires a great deal of thought and mental recalibration, which in turn require effort and time: things many of us find ourselves drained of more often than not.

The concrete world, and the rushed exhaustion that comes with it, very often trumps the perceived benefits of slowing down, taking a deep breath, and sorting through the cluttered inbox of one’s mind.

I would argue, however, that time spent in this way isn’t a sunk cost, but an investment. It’s similar to checking your map periodically as you make your way to an unfamiliar destination, just to be certain you’re headed the right way, taking the right side-streets, following the optimal course.

Unhoned opinions are burdened with historical, emotional, and intellectual baggage.

Whittle away the excess opinions — those that don’t align with who you are, today, knowing what you know and valuing what you value — and you’ll find that not only do you spend less time hamstrung by guilt and worrying about making the right choices, you’ll also be more capable of cutting through the chaff when new perspectives are presented to you in the future.

Discussing the Freedom of Speech

Last week, I posted the first episode of my podcast, Let’s Know Things.

The response was wonderful — I was pretty overwhelmed by the flood of likes and subscribes and kind words. The emails and comments I received were amazing: lots of people were keen to have discussions of the sort I have on this show.

I feel fortunate to live in an age when so many of us are so integrally connected. This networked international society in which we live allows us to be aware of and interact with each other in ways that would have been impossible only a decade or two ago, and the publishing and conversation software built atop that network is making the exchange of ideas easier by the day.

But there are plenty of laws, movements, and people who would slow this process, would build new digital walls, and who would prefer that we don’t color outside the lines when speaking.

Last week’s episode of the podcast included a discussion about context (more specifically, ‘contextualism’) and an unspooling of an article about China and its rise, and how it relates to the US, the idea of global superpower nations, and the future.

This week, on the first official episode (last week’s was Episode 0), the topic is free speech. And if you really dig into what’s happen in this space today, I think you’ll find that the conversation isn’t as clear-cut as it often seems to be in television soundbytes and online thinkpieces.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, here are some links:

iTunes (also available on apps/networks that pull from iTunes, like Overcast), Stitcher, Soundcloud, YouTube, and as an MP3

Extensive show notes can be found at the Let’s Know Things website.

You can also listen right on this page:

If you enjoy the show, I’d truly appreciate a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Your thoughts and stars (or likes, depending on the network) help immensely in terms of getting my work in front of new people.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy what you hear.

Covert Factors

I tend to avoid rewards cards. The ones you get at the grocery store that give you discounts on certain things, the ones that you get at the coffee shop that give you a freebie after ten or twelve coffee — they’re not my thing.

This decision to generally avoid these programs stemmed from my desire to control my inner, decision-making math, at least as much as is feasible.

That is to say, I’m aware that when we make purchasing decisions, we tend to very quickly slam a bunch of numbers together in order to decide what we buy and what we don’t.

These numbers come from all over the place: the cost of the item in question; the cost of comparable items; the implied savings or loss resulting from a purchase or non-purchase; the relative status gained or lost by going with this brand over another; the amount of money available in one’s bank account, or the amount of cash in one’s wallet or purse; the sale price versus the non-sale price; the numerous visual and non-visual cues (music and smells and the color of the walls and warmth of the lighting).

There are already plenty of variables influencing how I buy, and most of them are things I can be aware of, but can’t completely control.

Rewards cards and things of that nature, however, I can.

Yes, it could be argued that I could save money by getting that thirteenth coffee free. But it could also be argued that, in little ways, I’m surreptitiously being nudged toward buying more coffee, and more coffee from that one coffee place in particular, because the part of my brain that measures and weighs my purchases is being swayed. When I go through that split-second process of deciding how best to spend my time and money, the mathematical equation I throw together without even trying has a new, covert factor involved, and that factor inches me toward ‘buy.’

I’m not saying these reward programs are anywhere near malicious.

But I do think that being aware of how they influence our decisions is important, because a familiarity with the knee-jerk math we do in those few seconds we typically take before making a purchase allows us to make better choices in general, not just with groceries and coffee.