Do Men and Women Complete Each Other?

I’ll be up front about this.  I think the notion that men and women complete each other can be pushed too far, even though it does seem to have some truth to it.

In favor of the notion, I can recall some wonderful feelings of completeness I’ve had during sex, and sometimes those feelings reverberated for hours or even a few days afterwards.  So maybe there’s that sense in which men and women might complete each other.

I also recall thinking that my partner’s talents and skills somewhat rounded out my own.  In some cases, she had a strong aptitude for things I wasn’t much inclined towards.  And vice versa.  So there’s another sense in which men and women might complete each other.

Of course, I’m not talking about the seemingly related issues of whether men and women compliment each other or are compatible with each other.  I’m only talking about this one notion of whether they complete each other — of whether they make each other whole.  And I think that can be pushed too far.

For instance, I’ve heard the argument that, because men and women complete each other, men and women cannot be complete or whole in themselves.  To be polite, that argument seems to be based on a naive lack of experience with being complete or whole.

A friend of mine once told me, “If you really need someone else to feel complete, then you are too needy for a relationship in the first place.”  I don’t entirely buy into her radical attitude, but I think it might have some truth to it.  At least, I’ve known some pretty needy people who always seemed to be mentioning how much they required their partner for themselves to feel whole. And the same people were often too jealous or possessive to have a healthy relationship.

Another argument I’ve heard is that, because men and women complete each other, homosexuals cannot.  That seems quite a stretch.

I see no reason why two homosexuals cannot feel the same sort of emotional completion that I have felt at times with my partners.  And I see no reason why they cannot have the same balance of talents and skills that I have at times had with a partner.

The last argument I’ve heard is that men and women complete each other in the sense men are the head of the family and women are their helpmeets.  If that’s how a couple genuinely wants to work things out between them, that’s their business, but I think it pushes it too far to say that only that one arrangement can complete a man or woman.

Besides, what’s there to really differentiate that sort of “completeness” from the working relationship of, say, a male executive and his female secretary?

So, why I think there might be some truth to the notion that men and women can complete each other, I also think that notion can be pushed too far — and often enough has been pushed too far.

But what do you think?  Am I onto something, or are these just some more of my late night thoughts that I ought to have torpedoed out of the water before they left their berth?

Accepting Ourselves, Accepting Our Lives

Our entire life — consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.

— Jean Anouilh

The Death of Self-Esteem

Helen’s face launched 1000 ships, and I used to think that was impressive.

But that was before I heard that a single bad idea — just one bad idea — had launched 15,000 scientific and scholarly studies.   Fifteen thousand?  According to some quick calculations, it would take over seven years to read a stack of 15,000  studies — assuming you could read one each standard business hour.

In 1969, Nathaniel Brandon published a paper called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem.”  He argued that “feelings of self-esteem were the key to success in life.”  His ideas soon became the hot new thing in education, and they launched the self-esteem movement.

The now dead self-esteem movement.

Killed by 15,000 arrowsThose 15,000 studies show that high self-esteem (.pdf):

  • Doesn’t improve grades,
  • Doesn’t reduce ­anti-social behavior, and may even facilitate bullying,
  • Doesn’t deter alcohol drinking or drug abuse, and may even encourage it,
  • Doesn’t reduce unwanted teen pregnancies, and
  • Doesn’t make a person more likeable or attractive to others.

“In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be ­counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly (source).”

The Most Significant Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Acceptance

If the reports are true that the self-esteem movement is dead — and I am only repeating here what I’ve read — then it will be interesting to see whether folks also reject a closely related concept.  The concept of self-acceptance.

Although self-esteem and self-acceptance are by no means the same thing, they seem to be closely entwined in a lot of people’s minds.  So if one of them gets thrown out, maybe the other one will too.   And that would be folly.

The biggest difference between self-esteem and self-acceptance is that, while self-esteem is not necessarily based on a realistic self-appraisal, self-acceptance is necessarily based on a realistic self-appraisal.  It’s possible for self-esteem to be out of whack with reality.  There is no rule that says you must be highly intelligent to possess wonderfully high esteem for your intelligence.

On the other hand, you can truly accept yourself only to the extent you are realistic about yourself.  If I accept that I’m a genius, but I’m actually the village idiot, then I am not truly accepting myself.  To genuinely accept myself, my acceptance must correspond to the facts.

That is quite a significant difference between the two things.

Who Are Your Friends?

If you want to know who your truest friends are, you should ask yourself who encourages you to accept yourself as you are.  For it is all but the very mark of true friend that he or she encourages that in you.   Yet,  most of us have few friends of that caliber.

We seem to need them, though.

One Reason Why We Do Not Accept Ourselves

There appear to be several reasons why we do not always accept ourselves as we are, but I will only discuss one here.

The single most forceful reason seems to be the one noted by Jung: Accepting ourselves can be terrifying.

Perhaps we now and then try to take advantage of those we love, or who love us.  Maybe we are arrogant, or maybe we are more foolish than we wish to be. Sometimes it is nothing others think we should worry about, but which disturbs us.  And sometimes it is something that would destroy our social standing with everyone but our truest friends — if it got out.  How often in our lives have we wanted to kill someone?  How often have we wanted someone’s possessions?

To completely accept oneself is like completely accepting nature.  You do not accept nature when you accept only the beauty and not the stench.  Nor when you take sides with the fly against the spider, or the spider against the fly.

A while back, my friend Don was on his way to work when he noticed a commotion in the timber beside the road.  He pulled over and watched as a doe frantically tried to distract a black bear from killing her fawn.  The bear had two cubs to feed, and the doe was unsuccessful — her fawn’s life ended that day.

When I asked Don what he thought of it, he didn’t say it was right.  He didn’t say it was wrong.  He said he felt awe, humility, and an acceptance of his own mortality.  To accept yourself is sometimes more difficult than watching a bear tear apart a fawn to feed her cubs, but the principle of refusing to condemn remains the same.

A Persistent Myth About Accepting Yourself

It is a myth that accepting yourself — even your so called darkest side — leads to acting on your every impulse.  We are taught that we must condemn certain feelings or impulses or we will end up acting on them.  But that appears to be nonsense, and we would see it as nonsense if we were not too afraid to look.

Humans sometimes use condemnation to control themselves — even though it is a relatively ineffective means of self-control (e.g. why are we so hypocritical?).   But more often we use condemnation to control others.  It’s one of our ways of manipulating people.

You’ll find it easier to accept yourself if you do not condemn others.  And easier to accept others if your do not condemn yourself.

Yet, it is possible that no one but your truest friends will accept that you do not condemn your “darkest impulses”.  The rest of the world is reluctant to give up that means of manipulating you.  Yet, if you are a healthy person, you will discover you have plenty of reasons not to act on that impulse to steal money from your aunt’s purse — even without condemning your desire to do so.  You will feel empathy for your aunt.  You will have compassion for her.  You will not wish to do an unkind thing to her.  And so forth.

Liberation

There can be a remarkable feeling of liberation that comes with simply accepting yourself.  It is not the liberation of one who has decided he or she is free to pillage, but the liberation of one who is no longer wrestling with him- or herself, who is no longer wasting energy on internal feuds.

I doubt self-acceptance ever catches on as a movement in the way that self-esteem did.  And if it ever were to become popular, then it would quickly be made into a slogan for why you should join the Army, buy this or that car, or vote for a scoundrel.

All the same, it seems to me that when someone says they don’t like life, then about half the time, the root cause of their dissatisfaction is an unwillingness or an inability to accept themselves as they are.

How Would You Solve This Problem?

I’ve been wondering tonight what would be a good coping strategy for a small business owner with autism in his dealings with employees?

I was listening to him earlier.  He said, “I have discovered that a lot of the poor I hire are useless.  It costs me minimum wage plus overhead to employ them.  But many of them are incapable of doing anything worth that much money.”

I used to employ people, so I know that some employees don’t give back good value for what you pay them.  I might even grant to the guy that the poor are often unskilled or low skilled workers.  Some not only lack skills but have bad work habits, such as showing up late, wasting time, and so forth.  And maybe it’s even true that — as a group — the poor have worse work habits than typically more skilled workers.  But even if I grant him all that, I don’t think it’s the whole picture.

Some years ago, I was employed by a company to provide consulting services mainly to call centers. This was before all the call centers got shipped offshore to India and the Philippines.  I hear in those countries, call centers often employ skilled college graduates and pay well by local standards.  Whether that’s true or not, most of the call centers I consulted for in America employed the working poor and sometimes paid no more than minimum wages.

I can only speak from my own experience (as did the small business owner himself ) but it was my impression that most problems the call centers got themselves into — including such “employee problems” as low productivity — were in one way or another caused by poor management or poor supervision, and could only be solved if the managers wanted to solve them.

In the time I held that job, which was only a few years, I ran across one — and only one — call center where the bulk of the problems could be fairly assigned to the employees.  One of the employees had managed to set herself up as a ring leader for the other employees, and she was extraordinarily hostile to any authority but her own.  She was also so clever about concealing her activities that the supervisors didn’t know what was going on.  But she had even gotten her group to limit themselves to a quota for daily sales which she had set far beneath the group’s potential.  After the call center let her go, sales more than doubled.

That was the one case I came across where the fault for poor productivity lay squarely with an employee and those who followed her.  I don’t doubt there are many such cases, but I doubt they are more numerous than the cases of poor supervision or management.

Indeed, most of the problems I encountered could be attributed to poor supervision or management.  I recall that “hidden and competing objectives” were a frequent problem.  Perhaps,  you had a supervisor who was a control freak and tried to micromanaged every minute of the operation.  In which case, the real objective of the call center was to indulge someone’s ego.

Sometimes the problem was poor training — of the supervisors and managers.  Many managers didn’t know the importance of buying the best available lists of who to call.   Or they didn’t know how to structure a script for their callers, nor what words to pack it with, nor how to test its effectiveness.  Or they didn’t know how to solve common employee problems.

I once knew some of the figures by which I had increased productivity in the calling operations I consulted with.  I used to be so proud of those numbers that I had a half dozen of them memorized for years.  But today they escape me.  Nevertheless, I recall they were nothing to be embarrassed by.  Yet, every increase in productivity I got — save one — involved in some way or another first improving the performance of the supervisors or managers.

Now, my experience is admittedly limited, but it suggests to me, if to no one else, that how you supervise people and manage their work plays a decisive role in how productive they become.  If someone thinks his workers are useless, then all I can say is that, in my experience, useless workers can often be turned around by improving the skills of their supervisors and managers.

Which brings me home to the small business owner.  He has told me that he is severely autistic.  From what little I know about autism, I think that might present a problem with supervising people.  If so, I wonder what he can do about it?

Is there a good coping strategy for him?  A way he can manage his autism to deal more effectively with his employees?  I would kind of like to suggest something to him — both for his sake and the sake of the people he employs.

The Two Ways of Selling

When I was in sales, I discovered there are — for the most part — only two basic ways that people sell something.

  • Either they sell their product,
  • Or they sell against the other guy’s product.

In theory, it’s simple to sell your product.  You find out what your client wants so much that he’s actually willing  to do something in order to get it, then you explain to him that your product will give him what he wants so much to have, and you ask for the order.

In practice, it often takes a few skills to sell your product.    For one thing, you’ve got to be at least half of a detective to figure out what some people want.  You must know how to actively listen.  You’ve got to know how to communicate clearly and persuasively.  You need to be familiar enough with your product that you can be justifiably confident it will do what you say it will do.   It helps mightily if you really do give a genuine damn that your client gets what he wants — or at least you do on Tuesdays.  And so on.

Fortunately for brand new sales people, as well as other such perverts, there’s a much easier way to sell something.  Just sell against the other guy’s product. For one thing, it requires fewer skills to sell against the other guy’s product.  For another thing, you need not be tops in the few skills it does require.

Instead of finding out what your customer wants and then giving it to him, you simply persuade him he’s somehow getting screwed by his current vendor. Persuading him he’s getting screwed is the easiest way of doing it, but you can also finesse it by playing to other negative emotions as well.  Yet, no matter whether or not you finesse it, the common theme is that you are not really selling your product — instead, you are persuading your client to reject the other guy’s product.

Realistically speaking, there are enough fear based people out there — people who are habitually more scared of doing something wrong than they are desirous of getting what they want in life — to keep you in business forever.  So, it’s by no means an impractical way of selling something.

So far as I recall, selling against the other guy’s product only has one drawback from a purely bottom line perspective:  It’s very difficult to do it and charge a premium price.  You almost always need to position your product as lower priced than your competitor’s product. That can cut into profits.  Or worse, commissions.

I used to know some very competent sales people who simply would not touch selling against the other guy’s product.  For the most part, they had well established relationships with their clients, and most of their sales came from repeat business.  Also, for the most part, they believed in themselves as able to make a difference.  As Chuck, one of the best sales people I ever knew, told me, “I honestly don’t know if our service is that much better than everyone else’s.  But I do know that if you buy from me, you get me as part of the deal, and I work very hard to make that count for something.  When someone has a problem, I get it fixed.  No excuses.”

And then, too, I’ve long suspected some of the sales people I once knew were all but criminally guilty of setting ridiculously high personal expectations for themselves.  Patently absurd stuff like: They will not run over old folks in crosswalks even when it’s necessary to make an appointment on time, they will not set fire to a school even when their client has expressed a craving for roasted marshmallows, they will not bad mouth the competition even on Sundays when they have their client over to watch the big game and she’s a captive audience.

It’s been ages since I was in sales and I no longer know many salespeople.   Nowadays the people that put me most in mind of selling against the other guy’s product are pundits, politicians, and (fundamentalist) preachers.   From what relatively little I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh, for instance, it seems he devotes most of his energy to tearing down his political competitors.  But then, I think that’s true of many pundits, politicians, and (fundamentalist) preachers these days:  They seem to lack any vision, any “product” of their own that is genuinely something more than a thinly disguised excuse to attack their competitors.

Thank goodness we’re above all that at Café Philos!  Other blogs may be out to get you, but you can rest assured we’re not.  And a new scientific study just out shows that we actually cost you less in time per sentence read than our nearest competitors.  Only here at Café Philos are you and your loved ones guaranteed the safety and peace of mind you deserve — now at a reduced price!

Rambling on about Blogging

I would be astonished if anyone who cared was astonished that I enjoy writing.  Especially blogging.  Blogging almost never feels like a chore.

Most days, I even look forward to it — which is certainly more than I do my cooking.

I believe, in fairness, I am moderately skilled at blogging — which I think of as mostly a separate category of writing from, say, writing a novel, a magazine article,  a short story, etc.

Blogging, I believe, has its own rules, and those rules are still being worked out and refined by us fearless bloggers.

As time goes on, it will become an ever more distinct form of writing.  But already, some people are very good at it.  Some are very poor at it. And I am somewhere in the middle.

What is it like being in the middle?  I confess that, every night, I retire to my bed in tears that I will never be the Shakespeare of blogging; but soon, I turn into smiles that I will never be the Bulwer-Lytton of blogging either.  I am routinely tossed between one grand passion and another.  My life is truly exciting because I am a middle of the road talent.  Only rock climbing, race car driving, and running with the bulls are arguably more extreme than life in the middle.

I think, among other things, really good bloggers write sentences, paragraphs or short passages that can stand alone.  I know that is true in other forms of writing, but I think there is something about the medium that might make it especially true in blogging.

Here’s Dana Hunter, an outstanding word smith and blogger, describing just how moved she can be by the written word:

There are moments, when I’m watching or reading something, where the story leaves me hyperventilating.  Shivering, shaking, aching, breaking, flying apart in fragments.  Crying, yes, because strong emotion of any kind has this tendency to sting the eyes, stun the brain, leave a person feeling like they’ve shaken hands with the third rail while breaking the fourth wall.

I’m not sure, but I think really good writers like Dana usually feel words much more deeply than the rest of us.  And it probably has something to do with why they are such good writers.

What I do know is that I — for all my love of words — am never moved to “flying apart in fragments” by words alone.  I need more than words: I need also in conjunction with words, the sight of someone’s perky, naked breasts, to move me as much as Dana is moved by words alone.

Chauncey De Vega is another hugely skilled word smith and blogger.  Here he is casually crafting a superb stand alone passage:

I am going to try my best to write something on Tuesday’s Election Day massacre political fubar coronation of the stupid classes, but I am more of a mind that folks should just look away. Just avert your eyes as though you were at the proverbial urinal….

In just a few words, he sums up the election results, the political consequences, and arguably the best way of handling the situation — all the while pumping into the passage enough snark to jolt the moon in its orbit.  Not bad for a big city kid.

Now, I think Dale’s posts contain some of the freshest language I’ve seen in blogging.  He is also at home with logic.   And here he is employing a combination punch of creative language and hard logic to thoroughly knock down the argument made in a video against gay marriage (I believe his third paragraph is especially creative, and that it could almost stand by itself without the other two paragraphs introducing it):

Declares a guy with street affectations in this video, “we have got to have a standard, otherwise everyone in our society will be affected”….

The legalization of gay marriage is, of course, the foul specter that will affect “everyone in our society” — somehow. True to the pro-inequality position, the guy with the street affectations and the other speakers in the video don’t bother listing the effects, let alone specifying why we should care about the effects, let alone detailing an argument (philosophical, political, sociological, or other) that links the suggested cause with the unnamed effects.

I gather they’re bad effects, but are they unjust effects? Oppressive effects? Painful effects? Will our hair fall out, our skin get blotchy? Will our cats fill their litter boxes more frequently? Will Christmas move to an every-other-year schedule? Will more college football programs adopt a garish shade of turf, as they have done in Boise?

I think any fair minded person, even if they are opposed to gay marriage, would have to agree that Dale has kicked the bejeebers out of the video’s argument in far fewer words than it takes many professional columnists to warmed up to their topic.

Dana, Chauncey, and Dale strike me as three bloggers who each in his or her own way is stretching the medium, and pioneering what can be done with it.

I seriously doubt they see themselves as in any way special, but I think if you were to read much more of their blogs than I can republish here, you yourself might see them as exceptional writers by any standards.

Moreover, so far as I know, they have each of them managed to excel at blogging without requiring the crutch of perky, naked breasts to inspire them.

How weird is that?

By the way, my sidebar contains many more links to well written blogs than just these three.  Just so you know.

Has the Time Come to Colonize Mars?

Remember the old Star Trek intro?  It went something like,  “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

It was just a hook for a TV show, but in the end, the line became a little bit more than famous.  It became an expression for a lot of people’s deeper aspirations.  As such, it was treated in every which way from as a joke to the slogan for a way of life.

I’ve been thinking of that line this election cycle.

This election cycle, like all election cycles, is loaded down with candidates whose most inspiring vision for me is never anything greater than to once again further cut my taxes, and then to cut my government services when I’m not looking.

And that’s their most inspiring vision for me.  The one I might, in a million years, work up one single throaty “hooray” for.

Their other visions include fighting endless wars, creating a third world gap between rich and poor in this country, and simply ignoring or denying most real problems such as environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation, health care, and global climate change.

Leaders, indeed!

Such boldness! Such dreams!  Such visions!

I don’t know about anyone else, but frankly,  I myself am not inspired to get out of bed in the morning even with a full bladder by such insipid and pathetic visions for me.

Maybe if I were a very old man in whom the fires had largely died and who no longer needed any real goals or dreams — maybe then I could at least now and then get a lucky piss hard-on in the early dew morning for the visions of today’s candidates and would-be leaders.

Maybe.

But I genuinely doubt even then I’d be inspired — really inspired — by what strangely seems more than sufficient to inspire all the many political wimps who want be my bosses.  After reading their campaign literature, after studying their visions for me, I just bet everyone of them is the sort of robust leader who is fully capable of getting falling-down drunk on table ketchup.

Do I sound a wee bit contemptuous?  If so, I think there’s good reason for it.  I mean, just take a look — take a long, quiet, and sober look — at all that is petty, wrong, base, “monotonous, stupid, and cruel”, about humans, our history and our nature.  Isn’t there enough there to make you deeply wonder what, if anything, redeems us?

For I think to be awake in this world, to know one’s place in it,  means  in part to be fully and perhaps coldly aware that one belongs to a species that is just as stupid, ugly, and horrible as we are also the most extraordinary and wondrous of all life.

So, is the very best that our species can aspire to a tax cut?  Is our most powerful and compelling dream a vision of reducing government services?  To say nothing of the rest of it — of fighting endless wars, etc.?

I think not.  I think if that’s the best we can do, then there cannot be much upside to our species, and we are at best a tragedy, but, more likely, we are too pathetic to even be tragic.  Moreover, let me suggest that anyone who is genuinely or deeply inspired by such mere things as further cutting taxes and reducing government services is simply an excitable wus.

“To boldly go where no one has gone before”, might be among the world’s corniest TV lines.  I really don’t know about that.  But I know the idea behind those words has guts and vision.  Why, just chanting that line a few times is probably enough to cause deep intestinal panic in my town’s ketchup addicted mayor.

At any rate, now that I’ve genteelly mentioned some of the polite and pleasant thoughts running through my brain this campaign season, please let me point you to an extraordinary issue of The Journal of Cosmology.

Colonizing Mars: The Human Mission to the Red Planet is the title of the October-November issue.  The peer reviewed issue contains over 50 online articles, written by more than 70 scientists and former astronauts,  on how Mars can be colonized by us.  It’s a pretty comprehensive look at the problem.

Basically, The Journal proposes the colonization of Mars be paid for by private companies, and that the colonization get under way very soon.

Now, I think if you can get private companies to raise the needed capital, which is estimated to be 145 billion dollars, then you should do it.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but my belief that our government has the necessary leadership to adequately water the flowerbeds of Washington, D.C. during a rain storm, let alone the leadership to colonize Mars, has been under some strain of late.  Therefore, I’m open to the suggestion that private enterprise is the way to go.

From an email sent to David Dobbs of Wired Magazine, here’s how the folks at The Journal put that cost of 145 billion dollars in context:

The Conquest of Mars vs the Iraq War (“The contrasts are stark: $145 billion to conquer an entire planet, vs a trillion dollars to fight a war which has accomplished nothing except to sew destruction, kill and maim a lot of innocent people, and enrich the few.”)

That seems to me pretty persuasive.  Frankly, I have no clue whether the colonization of Mars is really feasible, but I believe that, if it really is, then we should do it.  And as soon as possible.  Because no matter how often we are led by insipid fools and by even worse than insipid fools, we still as humans have a side to us that aspires “to boldly go”, and we must to be authentic allow that side of us to be expressed.

There are many other reasons to colonize Mars.  That’s just one of them.  If our government won’t do it, then maybe our businesses and other institutions will.  But whatever the means, it’s the human thing to do.

 

Jess the Artist

Today, I happened to walk into the Coffee Shop at the same time as an artist was hanging her work for display.  It wasn’t long before she and I were in a fast and free conversation about her art.  That’s to say, something clicked and we found ourselves giving voice to each other’s ideas.  A curious introduction, so quickly eye to eye.

I occasionally wonder about that — about how some people you meet feel like an old friend in moments, and how some others never seem to be more than acquaintances even after knowing them for years?

Then, again, maybe it’s not so strange for an artist to be easy to talk with.  After all, she’s already hung her work — which is her attempt to communicate — on a public wall.  You can’t get much more inviting than that, can you?

Jess is a young artist, and of course her work is still developmental, but I think she has promise.  Her paintings are original, they make an impact, and so maybe she even has great promise.  But it’s so hard to judge with a young artist because you never know whether over the years they will pursue their strengths, and thus develop their promise; or instead whether they will try to merely compensate for their weaknesses, and thus almost certainly be damned to mediocrity. 

Now, if I had to guess, I would guess this artist is going end up playing to her strengths.  What I saw today is that her technique hasn’t yet caught up with her vision, so there’s still a noticeable awkwardness to her art.  On the other hand, each of her paintings seemed a bright burst of originality shining through that awkwardness.   And, all in all, it’s that originality that is most her.   

Too bad I will probably lose track of her.  I think it would be very interesting to see what she does next.