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Respect is Earned

There’s a phrase here in the US — contempt of cop — that is often cited to arrest or otherwise harass law-abiding citizens. The idea here is that police officers are deserving of respect, and therefore disrespecting them is a punishable offense.

But are they deserving of respect? What, exactly, have they done to deserve it?

I’ve met plenty of cops who have my respect. These are people who take their job seriously, and are friendly and kind and protective of the citizens in their jurisdiction. I feel safer with them around, not less safe. They are assets to their communities.

I’ve also met plenty who are denigratory and power-hungry. Cops who abuse their position in order to assert authority over others. This is so prevalent that it’s become the archetypical image of ‘cop’ many people think of when they see a police car, leading many of us to feel less safe when they’re around, not more.

We’re supposed to call judges ‘Your Honor,’ without knowing how honorable they actually are. We’re supposed to be deferential toward powerful CEOs, though we may know nothing about how they’ve wielded their power and authority; what they’ve done with the influence they possess.

These ‘respectable’ positions grant those who occupy them great power, and often great responsibility. As a result, it’s expected that those who occupy them are worthy of our respect. That acquiring a certain job title makes you a respectable person.

Unfortunately, this is very often not the case.

Many people who hold these positions — powerful businesspeople, judges, politicians, enforcers of the law — are petty human beings with nothing but disdain for those under them. They abuse their power, use it to gain more power, and assume they deserve outsized amounts of respect for their accomplishments, despite their disrespect for those over whom they hold sway.

We’ve become so accustomed to respecting titles that it’s easy to overlook the people who wear them. We’re so eager to see the best in those who could crush us that we very seldom wonder why.

I say give respect where warranted, and no more than the modicum you’d afford to any other human being beyond that. Celebrating petty dictators (no matter what their title) only serves to elevate more of their ilk. Respecting those who disrespect you only helps them justify their wrongful actions.

Respect is earned, not inherited through name or title or division of responsibility. It’s what people do with what they’ve got that shows their character, not their potential to help or harm.

Keep this in mind when deciding what to do with whatever power you might hold, today or tomorrow.

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Instincts

When I need something from my bag, I instinctually know where to find it.

I know this because I’ve packed and unpacked and reached into that bag hundreds of times. When I first got the bag, this was not the case. When I first got the back, my bag-instincts weren’t yet developed.

That’s the thing with instincts: they’re weak unless we train them. After packing and unpacking and reaching into the thing over and over again, my bag-instincts grew stronger. The part of my brain that just ‘knows’ where everything is without me having to think about it became burly.

Some instincts, on the other hand, come prepackaged with our genes, and there are others we pick up over the years because of the environment we grow up in. But everything else requires work to develop.

Even the instincts we’re born with are worth noting and investigating. Prejudice, for example, is an instinct. We’re born understanding that we should be wary of things that are different from us; things that are outside of our experience.

The only way to train ourselves away from such a response is to experience more, to be exposed to many different sorts of people and ideas and places and things. This helps reshape the instinct so that it raises the hairs on our necks and grants a sense of unease only when there’s truly something to worry about.

We also have instincts that keep us from achieving our goals.

Consider the innate desire to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work, even though we may have plenty of energy left, and plenty of desire to reach for some new height.

That instinct came from somewhere — some primal human survival tactic to stockpile energy, in case we have to run away or fight — but it can be shifted to work for you, rather than against you. You can train your instincts to perk up at the idea of certain types of work, for example, or to help you feel revitalized after a specific activity (exercise, perhaps).

But it takes work to train your instincts, and that’s part of why most people never do. It requires a conscious sense of direction, and tons of repetition.

Many people view their instincts as something spiritual or otherworldly, which also doesn’t help. “I don’t know why I feel this way, and therefore I must do as I feel, unthinkingly” is a terrible perspective if you want your instincts to work for you rather than the other way around.

There’s no hocus-pocus involved with instincts: they’re an amalgamation of beautiful, intricate, gee-whiz brain science that ties together what you know and what you’re sensing.

Instincts leave your conscious brain out of the equation because that’s the most efficient way to convey such information when you need to compute quickly and sense what’s happening without fully understanding in a way you can verbalize.

Intentional, thoughtful development of your instincts allows you to train yourself to be more passively aware of your surroundings. It can help you be more aware of real dangers, rather than the unfamiliar. They can also help you to reach into your bag and know, subconsciously, where all your stuff is.

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Wonderment

The world can be a dreadful place: Dark, savage, opportunistic, and full of villains.

It can seem like all the good people are relegated to the pages of history books, and any vestiges of a positive definition for the word ‘humanity’ are archived with them.

It may seem that way sometimes, especially in the midst of a caffeine-crash, mood swing, or ‘Breaking News’ marathon, but there’s plenty to be excited about out there. The world, and the people in it, are full of potential. Immense, inspiring, world-shaping potential.

Literally everything that is and can be is out there to see and marvel over. If you ever find yourself lacking the potential for wonderment, you’re either not paying attention, or observing from a vantage point that’s denying you an amazing view.

The world is an infinitely compelling, inspiring, fascinating place. And beyond this world are other worlds, and beyond those, still more. If you look outward at all of that — everything in nature, and everything we’ve created as part of that larger ecosystem — and can’t find something that makes you happy, it may be time to adjust your perspective.