The Public Shame of Intellectual Dysfunction

Why is it more acceptable, generally speaking, to be intellectually dysfunctional while being socially functional than to be socially dysfunctional while being intellectually functional? And yet why would most people take greater offense at being called intellectually dysfunctional than socially dysfunctional (or equivalent terms)?

I ask this in all sincerity. It seems strange.

Our society seems to value social skills more than intellectual skills. In fact, a large part of our society attacks people for being a part of the intellectual elite in a way they wouldn’t toward the social elite. They ridicule people for being stuck in ivory towers in a way they wouldn’t ridicule a Hollywood or music star for becoming rich from mere popularity.

Being intellectually talented rarely will make you rich or famous. But at the same time no one wants to think they are less than intellectually capable. I’m sure most of the population thinks they are intellectually above average.

If we as a society value intellectuality so little (relatively speaking), then why are we so touchy about it?

* * * *

The label of hardworking is one of the door prizes the losers of society can get just for playing.

You can be a poor uneducated wife-beating alcoholic white guy. But if you are one of the lucky schmucks to have any kind of legal work at all, then you get the privilege of being called hardworking. Then your allowed to look down on everyone less fortunate than you: unemployed, underemployed, homeless, welfare recipients, minorities, etc.

On the other hand, if you are intelligent and well educated while being unemployed, homeless, and/or on public assistance, you aren’t likely to get much respect by society. It doesn’t matter how many other good traits you have, from being kindhearted to generous. This is true even if you were a visionary genius, unless you invent or make something that can be marketed and profited from in our consumerist society, but then you’d be deemed hardworking. Your value would be in terms of your social functioning in a capitalist society, not your intellectual ability.

* * * *

I had a thought last night about how this connects to other issues.

The US has a large economic inequality and a large political power inequality. That isn’t extremely uncommon in the world, but it does make us stick out from rankings of other Western countries.

I was reminded about how scientifically illiterate Americans are on average. We rank among the lowest in the world on knowledge about basic scientific facts such as evolution, despite having some of the best universities in the world. If not for all the intelligent immigrants who keep coming here, our average IQ would likely stagnate or maybe fall drastically.

I realized that this is an intellectual inequality, an educational inequality. Our public schools are not so great, but the upper classes go to expensive private schools with the best education money can buy. Maybe intellectuality is such a touchy issue because inequality in general is such a touchy issue.

Open-Minded Learning: Humility and Passion

My ongoing blogging project has got me thinking about the act of learning. One thing that has been made clear to me once again is how learning is only possible to the extent you can admit you aren’t certain about what you think you know. If you believe you already have an answer, you won’t likely go out of your way seeking alternative viewpoints and new data.

This insight is at the heart of my mistrust of  the mindset of ideologues and true believers. Ideological belief systems have a way of becoming self-contained and self-referential, thus forming reality tunnels and echo chambers. It’s not that I don’t have biases like anyone else, but I want to hold them lightly and see them clearly for what they are. Of course, I will fail again and again. But it is the continual striving for intellectual humility that matters.

This entire project was inspired by my (trying to) discuss certain issues with others. It was evident that others felt more confident in what they thought they knew than I did. That was part of my point in disagreeing with particular people. It’s not that I certainly and conclusively know they are wrong and I am right. Rather, there are just too many complicating factors to declare anything with absolute certainty.

More importantly beyond conclusions, I realized that the basic issues were less than clear, as I wrote about the other day. Many people seem to assume that race and IQ are relatively simple things, but in reality they are highly subjective constructs and there is a lot of high level debate about how useful or unuseful are such constructs. So, I wanted to get back to first principles and build a foundation before trying to construct an analysis and argument. I needed to educate myself in order to know what made sense and what was bullshit.

Along with basic issues, there is also a lot of basic data that is less than well known. Most people know a little bit about topics like this and a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. Even among the more well informed, I’ve found their knowledge tends to be selectively narrow.

A related example came from a comment to a previous post:

The phrase “As violent crime has sharply decreased, the prison population has sharply increased. ” is not clear. Do you mean that increase of prison population has followed the violent crime decrease (e.g. first rate decreased, then prison population increased)? Otherwise, the effect is what I would perfectly expect.

This isn’t intended as a way to pick on one person. This commenter is in good company.

Yes, for many people in our society this seems like common sense and, based on mainstream data and understanding, it might be the most obvious conclusion to come to. But the problem is that, when something just makes sense to you, it decreases any motivation to challenge the status quo opinion. And the majority who share this status quo opinion won’t challenge you either. As long as you remain (self-)satisfied with what you think you know, you will never discover that what you think you know might be false. There is nothing more dangerous than a comfortable belief that explains away a complex problem with a wave of the hand.

We must demand responsibility of ourselves to dig deeper. This is yet another aspect of intellectual humility.

Never assume you know anything until you’ve thoroughly researched a topic and even then accept your limitations as a human. No, don’t just accept your limitations, embrace them and be upfront about them. Be clear about what motivates you, about why you care at all in the first place. Don’t take your bias as an unquestioned assumption. Defend your bias, if you can. Defend it with passion like it truly mattered.

This intellectual humility was perfectly expressed in the introduction to the revised and expanded edition of The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould. The foe of intellectual humility is the stance of false objectivity that hides ideological self-certainty. So, I’ll end this post with the words of Gould in his defense of intellectual passion (Kindle Location 505-565):

“Scholars are often wary of citing such commitments, for, in the stereotype, an ice-cold impartiality acts as the sine qua non of proper and dispassionate objectivity. I regard this argument as one of the most fallacious, even harmful, claims commonly made in my profession. Impartiality (even if desirable) is unattainable by human beings with inevitable backgrounds, needs, beliefs, and desires. It is dangerous for a scholar even to imagine that he might attain complete neutrality, for then one stops being vigilant about personal preferences and their influences— and then one truly falls victim to the dictates of prejudice.

“Objectivity must be operationally defined as fair treatment of data, not absence of preference. Moreover, one needs to understand and acknowledge inevitable preferences in order to know their influence— so that fair treatment of data and arguments can be attained ! No conceit could be worse than a belief in one’s own intrinsic objectivity, no prescription more suited to the exposure of fools. (Phony psychics like Uri Geller have had particular success in bamboozling scientists with ordinary stage magic, because only scientists are arrogant enough to think that they always observe with rigorous and objective scrutiny, and therefore could never be so fooled— while ordinary mortals know perfectly well that good performers can always find a way to trick people.) The best form of objectivity lies in explicitly identifying preferences so that their influence can be recognized and countermanded. (We deny our preferences all the time in acknowledging nature’s factuality. I really do hate the fact of personal death , but will not base my biological views on such distaste. Less facetiously, I really do prefer the kinder Lamarckian mode of evolution to what Darwin called the miserable, low, bungling, and inefficient ways of his own natural selection— but nature doesn’t give a damn about my preferences, and works in Darwin’s mode , and I therefore chose to devote my professional life to this study.)

“We must identify preferences in order to constrain their influence on our work, but we do not go astray when we use such preferences to decide what subjects we wish to pursue. Life is short, and potential studies infinite . We have a much better chance of accomplishing something significant when we follow our passionate interests and work in areas of deepest personal meaning. Of course such a strategy increases dangers of prejudice, but the gain in dedication can overbalance any such worry, especially if we remain equally committed to the overarching general goal of fairness, and fiercely committed to constant vigilance and scrutiny of our personal biases.

“(I have no desire to give Mr. Murray ammunition for future encounters, but I have never been able to understand why he insists on promulgating the disingenuous argument that he has no personal stake or preference in the subject of The Bell Curve, but only took up his study from disinterested personal curiosity— the claim that disabled him in our debate at Harvard, for he so lost credibility thereby. After all, his overt record on one political side is far stronger than my own on the other. He has been employed by right-wing think tanks for years, and they don’t hire flaming liberals. He wrote the book, Common Ground, that became Reagan’s bible as much as Michael Harrington’s Other America might have influenced Kennedy Democrats. If I were he, I would say something like: “Look, I’m a political conservative, and I’m proud of it. I know that the argument of The Bell Curve meshes well with my politics. I recognized this from the beginning. In fact, this recognition led me to be especially vigilant and careful when I analyzed the data of my book. But I remain capable of being fair with data and logical in argument, and I believe that the available information supports my view. Besides, I am not a conservative for capricious reasons. I believe that the world does work in the manner of the bell curve, and that my political views represent the best way to constitute governments in the light of these realities.” Now this argument I could respect, while regarding both its premises and supporting data as false and misinterpreted.) I wrote The Mismeasure of Man because I have a different political vision, and because I also believe (or I would not maintain the ideal) that people are evolutionarily constituted in a way that makes this vision attainable— not inevitable, Lord only knows , but attainable with struggle.

[ . . . ]

“Some readers may regard this confessional as a sure sign of too much feeling to write a proper work in nonaction [sic nonfiction]. But I am willing to bet that passion must be the central ingredient needed to lift such books above the ordinary, and that most works of nonfiction regarded by our culture as classical or enduring are centered in their author’s deep beliefs. I therefore suspect that most of my colleagues in this enterprise could tell similar stories of autobiographic passion. I would also add that, for all my convictions about social justice, I feel even more passionate about a closer belief central to my personal life and activities: my membership in the “ancient and universal company of scholars” (to cite the wonderfully archaic line used by Harvard’s president in conferring Ph.D.’ s at our annual commencement). This tradition represents, along with human kindness, the greatest, most noble, and most enduring feature on the bright side of a mixed panoply defining what we call “human nature.” Since I am better at scholarship than at kindness, I need to cast my fealty with humanity’s goodness in this sphere. May I end up next to Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius in the devil’s mouth at the center of hell if I ever fail to present my most honest assessment and best judgment of evidence for empirical truth.”

Bashing My Head Against a Brick Wall: Love of Truth or Masochism?

I’ve come to a point of frustration. Let me explain.

A conclusion I’ve flirted with for many years is that humans are fundamentally NOT rational (which isn’t necessarily to say humans are irrational; a better word is ‘arational’). Humans have some minimal capacity for rationality, but I suspect most of what is considered ‘rational’ is too often largely just rationalization. This is no grand insight per se. Still, I’ve resisted it. I want to believe that humans can be persuaded by facts. I want to believe that truth matters. However, I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that people don’t change much once set in their ways (which tends to happen early in life). As such, people don’t usually change their minds even when confronted with new facts and new ways of interpreting the facts. It’s just that people die and new generations come along (with new biases). The best hope one has of changing another’s mind is to meet them when they are a small child. After that point, there is little hope left for any further change.

Debating most people is about as worthwhile as bashing your head against a brick wall. Even worse, the people most interested in ‘debate’ tend to be the very people who are least interested in truth. It’s rather ironic. People tend to seek out debate because they want to ‘prove’ themselves right, not to explore possibilities, not to learn something new. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. You might bash your skull to a bloody pulp before you find them.

And, no, I’m not excluding myself from my own criticisms. I know from my own experience how challenging it is to try to be ‘rational’ (objective, emotionally neutral, self-critical, aware of cognitive biases, being on guard for logical fallacies, genuinely trying to understand different viewpoints, being fair toward another’s argument, considering all the data instead of cherrypicking, and on and on). It’s hard enough for me to deal with all this within myself. It’s just too much to have to try to deal with it in other’s as well, especially when those others in most cases don’t want to (or don’t have the capacity to) deal with it in themselves. Spending so much time online, I end up interacting with many people who don’t bring out the best in me and who put me in a generally combative, irritable mood. And it’s my fault for being so easily effected. I’m the way I am. People are the way they are. There is nothing that can be done about that. In this post, I merely wish to explain my frustration.

– – –

I’ll give some examples.

I recently wrote about the differences between Southern and Northern cultures. There are two ways of treating these differences. The standard liberal view is that cultures are different with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects. The standard conservative view is that some cultures are inherently or fundamentally superior. The problem with the conservative view is that conservative states and societies don’t rank well on many factors most people consider worthy (education, health, economic equality, etc). The conservative will often dismiss this data outright or rationalize it away. And, of course, a lot of (most?) conservatives have little interest in conceding to the liberal view of openminded and tolerant multiculturalism. As a liberal, how do I win or how do I find a win/win middle ground of understanding? I often can’t.

When I was writing about the Southern/Northern culture issue, I also brought up the related issue of race and IQ because it’s a favorite discussion of conservatives. As a liberal, I have a bias toward believing in egalitarianism. It bothers me on a fundamental level that conservatives are always seeking to prove others (usually those different than them) are inferior. Nonetheless, I’m inclined to defer to science on these kinds of issues. Facts are more important than my beliefs and preferences. I take it seriously when conservatives reference studies suggesting a correlation between race (i.e., racial genetics) and IQ. Because I take facts so seriously, I’ve researched the subject extensively by looking at all the studies I could find along with meta-analysis of the studies. It’s true there are some studies that suggest a possible correlation between race and IQ. But what these conservatives don’t wish to acknowledge is that there are also many studies showing no correlation between race and IQ and also many studies correlating IQ to many other factors. Simply put, the data is complex and the research is inconclusive. There is no scientific consensus, as far as I can tell.

I find odd this conservative attitude. These conservatives will cite research that supports their preconceived conclusions while ignoring all the research that contradicts their views. They completely ignore the issue of scientific consensus. I’ve found conservatives quite suspicious of scientific consensus. Conservatives like science when it agrees with them, but they realize scientific authority is a two-edged sword. Once you accept scientific consensus, you eliminate your ability to cherrypick the data. As a comparable example, most conservatives utterly despise the fact that most scientists in all fields and vast majority (98% as I recall) climatology experts who are active researchers agree that the data supports the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). It took decades for conservatives to accept global warming was even happening, but seemingly most still don’t accept that humans contribute to global warming. So, despite the strong scientific evidence and strong scientific consensus, conservatives are wary about science when it disagrees with their beliefs. They’ll ignore what most scientists conclude about AGW and instead they’ll find the small minority of studies and scientists who agree with them.

Accordingly, science is just there to be referred to when convenient and ignored when inconvenient. I don’t understand this attitude. I just don’t get it. If the majority of experts agree about something, I won’t be so presumptuous as to claim that I know better nor will I simply cherrypick the data that agrees with me. Why would I do this? What is to be gained by such anti-intellectual tactics?

One last example. I was looking at reviews of some books by Jim Wallis. One reviewer (in reference to God’s Politics if I remember correctly) mentioned the abortion issue. The person was criticizing the ‘moderate’ position that Wallis was proposing. As I understand it, Wallis is against abortions except when they are absolutely necessary (such as to save the mother’s life) and so is against banning abortions entirely. This position is ‘moderate’ in two ways. First, it strikes a balance between the practical and the moral and seeks a middle ground between two extremes (of pro-life and pro-choice). Second, it is the view held by most Americans and so is the ‘center’ of public opinion. The critical reviewer was promoting the common conservative view that abortions are bad and so compromising principles is to let liberals win. In a sense this is true because compromise is a liberal principle but not a conservative principle. Polls show that liberals support and conservative don’t support compromise. Even independents, although more supportive than conservatives, don’t have a majority that supports compromise. So, when Wallis is promoting a ‘moderate’ position he is by default promoting the ‘liberal’ position. Also, on many issues, most Americans hold positions that are ‘liberal’ (even though Americans don’t like to label themselves as ‘liberals’).

It just seems like liberals in America always lose even when they win. The liberal can have facts and public opinion on their side… and, yet, liberals are treated like an elitist minority to be dismissed and distrusted. It’s understandable that conservatives are wary about science considering most scientists identify as ‘liberals’.

– – –

All of this has made me increasingly pessimistic. I grew up among idealistic liberals which rubbed off on me a bit, but I’ve over time become cynical in response. What is the point in bringing up facts and analyzing the data? Those who agree with me probably already know what I know or are at least open to learning. And those who disagree with me probably won’t accept the facts no matter what.

My frustration isn’t entirely limited to those on the right. I often find a simplemindedness in the idealism and egalitarianism on the left. Even so, I rarely find the same radical anti-intellectualism on the left as I described above. Plenty of liberals don’t understand science and misrepresent scientific research, but they tend to do so out of an admiration (albeit a confused admiration). There are, for example, the New Age type liberals who want to turn science into a pseudo-religion about the beauty of nature and the wonder of the universe. It’s well intentioned even if naive. From my view, this liberal simplemindedness is mostly harmless. Liberals generally aren’t interested in trying to use science against some race or culture. This isn’t to say I don’t feel frustrated by the liberal New Age woo, but it doesn’t usually make me angry and it won’t make me lose all hope in humanity. Even if a liberal dismisses out of hand scientific studies suggesting a possible correlation between race and IQ, they do so because of worthy ideals of egalitarianism. Liberals want to make the world better for everyone, not just better for one group. Liberals are correct that many conservatives will use any scientific research, with or without scientific consensus, against those they perceive as ‘other’. Yes, we should be wary of ulterior motives when scientific research is being cited.

It’s hard for me to grapple with my frustration or to fully understand it. It’s my own personal issue (which relates to the depression I’ve experienced for a couple of decades), but it’s obviously not just about me. I’m a liberal in a society that is dominated by a conservative ruling elite. I see the polls showing most Americans agree with liberals like me on many issues, but none of that seems to matter. Those with the most power and those who are loudest aren’t generally the liberals. It’s rare for the majority public opinion to become visible such as with the protests in Wisconsin. The liberal majority is largely a silent majority. Most ‘liberals’ (whether or not they identify themselves as such) are ‘moderates’ and so they aren’t radicals who want force their opinion onto others. Anyway, polls showing what most Americans believe or support is quite likely irrelevant to most conservatives. Either they just know most Americans agree with them (no matter what the polls may show) or else the general masses isn’t to be trusted (any more than the intellectual elite).

I’m just frustrated. I have many non-fiction books that interest me and many posts I’d like to write if I had the time… but what is the point? Time is a precious commodity. I could be spending it on activities less frustrating. Yes, I enjoy learning new things, but the process of learning can be less than enjoyable at times because of those I run into while doing research online. I think I just have to accept that what interests me isn’t what interests most others, including in many cases most other liberals. I can get obsessive when my curiosity is piqued. It’s not unusual for me to spend weeks or months doing research and thinking about some subject before writing about it and it can take equal amount of time to gather my thoughts into the form of a post. After all that, very few people typically will ever read what I write. I largely do it for my own reasons and so this shouldn’t matter, but it does matter. It just makes me feel isolated. Truth matters to me in the same way God matters to a religious believer. Truth is my religion. There I said it. I know it sounds silly. I know most people don’t idealize truth in this way and to this extent. It’s because truth matters to me that I want to communicate my own understanding of truth. I want truth to matter to other people. I want to live in a society that values truth above all else. But that isn’t the world I live in.

Honestly, does truth matter? Why should it matter? Why should anyone care about truth?

My frustration makes me feel cynical, but I don’t want to be a cynic. Still, I do understand the attraction of ‘giving up’. As Thomas Ligotti once wrote, in response to superficial optimists (which can apply to all the superficialities of human society): “Once you understand that, you can spare yourself from suffering excessively at the hands of ‘normal people’, a pestilent confederation of upstanding creatures who in concert keep the conspiracy going by rehashing their patented banalities and watchwords.” I can’t begin to explain how much I sympathize with Liotti’s words, but he presents a conclusion of radical pessimism that goes far beyond even my own frustration. What I like about his advice is that bashing one’s head against a brick wall becomes unnecessary and avoidable once one realizes the brick wall for what it is. The brick wall ain’t going to move, not easily anyway. Even the best of us can only bash our heads against a brick wall for so long. I can’t say I’ve given up on my ideal of truth. I just need to let my fractured skull to mend a bit for the time being. Maybe I should read some fiction.

minor frustration

minor frustration

Posted on Jun 9th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’m feeling a bit frustrated with Gaia at the moment, but this is partly because I’ve been busy with family lately and haven’t had enough time.  I have various pods and blogs on email notification that it takes quite a while just to sort through all of that.  When I’m busy, that leaves me no time to blog.

Gaia is such a humungous community that I can feel overwhelmed.  I still feel like I’m barely beginning to get to know people.  Whereas, in some smaller online communities I’ve joined, the getting-to-know period was much shorter.

I came here to blog, but I also wanted to connect with other bloggers.  So far, I haven’t been successful in this.  I joined a bunch of pods and have posted quite a bit.  But I get the sense that most bloggers don’t post in pods much and most pod members don’t blog much.  I’ve gained a number of friends almost all of which invited me as a friend, but even so few of them ever comment in my blogs.  I go out of my way to comment in the blogs of others, but few of those people comment in my blog in return.  Many people who are the most active bloggers also seem to be the least active commentors in other people’s blogs.  And a few of the most active bloggers don’t even seem all that interested in responding to comments to their own blogs.

Basically, connecting is an issue.  Deborah mentioned that the blog comments between Nicole and I felt like a private conversation.  That surely isn’t my intention.  And it wouldn’t feel that way if more people responded.

However, I’ve come across bloggers who have been around since the beginning of Zaadz… and some of them get very few comments in their blogs.  It seems that there are a few bloggers that get lots of comments and a vast majority of bloggers that get few.  I guess its just like popularity in normal life.

Another aspect to my minor frustration is that I wonder if the reason for a small number of people commenting implies a lack of interest in the topics I blog about.  There are several reasons I can think of. 

First, I tend to blog about very intellectual topics.  And, yet, the intellectual crowd around here seems mostly limited to integral folks which I haven’t been drawn to blog (or post) much about. 

This bring me to the second reason.  I tend to write about very alternative viewpoints which by definition aren’t shared by the vast majority.  I wouldn’t be surprised that many of the books I read aren’t read by anyone else on Gaia… The Melancholy Android anyone?  

For the third… I’m not the most positive and activist person even in the normal world.  And certainly not on Gaia where positivity and activism is idealized above all else.

I’m not having a pity party.  Or if I am, it isn’t my purpose for blogging about this.  I want to connect with others in such a way that it causes them to be interested in connecting with me.  I want to blog, but not in isolation.  However, the more I try to reach out to connect to others, the less time I have to blog.  Should I simply do my own thing in my blog and just stop worrying about whether or not others care about what I blog about?

Part of me wonders if I fit in with the Gaia community.  As I’ve said elsewhere, I do resonate with the community here, but the question is whether the community resonates with me.  Whatever the case, I doubt I’d find another blogging community that I’d feel more comfortable with or in which it would be easier to connect with others.  I do like the sense that Gaia feels like a genuine community and a very active one at that.

More importantly, I’m just frustrated because my time is limited.  I always have to choose how to spend my time especially as I can be very thorough in my writings.  Should I spend more time blogging and less time posting in pods?  Should I take all of those pods off of email notification?  Should I limit myself to only one pod?  Should I stop trying so hard to connect with others and simply trust that the like-minded will find my blog on their own?

I like Gaia and don’t plan going anywhere.  I’m just trying to figure out how to improve my experience here… and how to decrease my frustration.

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about 10 hours later

Enlightened.thinker said

Hey Marmalade….I have had frustrations like you are experiencing and understand completely…

When I first came here I spent hours commenting on blogs of others, and I still try to comment when I can…as to integral topics, well I am not that astute on those topics and frankly do not like Wilbur stuff. That being said, I do love intellectual topics and stimulation here.

I also do not like PODS. I have been crucified in them and what I love to do, like you id I spend my time doing that. i blog first for myself…and if others resonate I feel blessed…I do agree may people blog and no one comments, I think I used to spend 8 hours a day commenting…and of course try to comment back on mine too…it gets to be a rather daunting task!

I ridded myself of most POD groups and have kept 4. I check them about once every month or so…too busy otherwise. Then each day I hit the blog friends and read as much as I can. Mind you  teach online lit and they blog and I comment on their posts and also will be taking a masters class online, so my time here may become more limited…but this place has been a source of inspiration and love, so I do not want to lose it..

I also try to email people here every once in awhile, or at least post grapevine stuff…but first and foremost I like to blog…and try to make time each day at least to answer the QAR.

I also disabled all the notifications for people who are friends that blog. I check the friends blog selection anyway, so why get double notice?

I have 355 friends here now… and this is no brag or anything…and it is not because I need to be popular…I turn no one away who wants to be a friend, and many of them do not blog but read silently…many read and do not comment…there is a sense of being “naked in public” but why take them off if they wsh to stay? If there are people who blog I try to write something and most of the time, writing it comes ith great pleasure…as this comment does…it strikes a chord.I also find new and fascinating people all the time, like yourself and love to follow progress!

People everywhere are funny and come with differing expectations of what they want and need…and I have taken some hiatuses from this place for various reasons…I hate to see people leave that I have found here, but we all have our own reasons for moving on…and i hope not to, but cannot promise anything in this world! LOL

Limited time is problematic…but do what you love first, just for yourself…blog that thought or idea. I realize it is frustrating to feel no one is listening…but remember this is your journey and all you do and say and feel is a wonderful legacy to your journey…

I’ll be checking in with ya…and I am glad you wrote this…it is important to voice how one feels always in honesty and release! And you are a great writer!


Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 10 hours later

Nicole said

Ben, there is so much here to respond to that I will just have to take it one point at a time

1) Frustration with Gaia due to real life interfering with Gaia – not being flippant, because many of us who are most active on Gaia experience this. Many is the time that I am just warming up with replying to a pod or commenting on a blog and work or some other important real life thing arises. Over time, I have learned to flow with it, to accept that later is soon enough to respond to that blog or that great post.

2) No time to blog – well, lately I haven’t blogged. Not exactly not having time, but my time being so dedicated to Alan and my friends on Gaia, and my business obligations, that blogging just doesn’t come up as something I do much. But again, for me, that’s ok, because I know for example there are days when I will have more time, like today, and more inspiration – my blog goal for today is to do one big future meet-up plan blog so I can get everyone talking about meet-ups I will be animating in one place.

3) Gaia being a humungous community – feel overwhelmed: I appreciate the fact that you still feel like you’re barely beginning to get to know people.  I have been here for coming on two years and people still say to me, do you know so and so? and i don’t. But that’s ok. What can work is finding the right sized network of active bloggers and staying connected with them. Also, our God Pod is a cozy community where scale is not yet a problem.

4) To blog, but also to connect with other bloggers – I think you  have been quite successful in this, given that as you rightly point out, most bloggers don’t post in pods much and most pod members don’t blog much.  Most people do not consciously and consistently comment on blogs, so that the few of us who do tend to stand out and be well known in the community as frequent commenters. You are certainly one who goes out of your way to comment in the blogs of others, but yes, at first, few of those people will comment in my blog in return.  There has to be a mutual connection, but we’ll talk about that more in a bit.

5) Many people who are the most active bloggers also seem to be the least active commentors in other people’s blogs, and some of the most active bloggers don’t even seem all that interested in responding to comments to their own blogs – this is true. Many of those who do respond to comments regularly do so quickly and lightly (like me) and all of this has to do with time constraints and priorities.

6) Connecting is an issue – blog comments between us felt like a private conversation – I know it wasn’t your intention, but there are several aspects that make it so. First, we post very long and detailed comments to each other, so most people would feel they didn’t have the time even to read all that, and maybe they would feel that if they did comment, they would have to be as detailed and they couldnt. Also, though, the more we get to know each other, and the closer we get as friends, the more personal the blog comments get and the more personal, the more it looks like an exclusive conversation. So I think it was a good point Debye made.

7) Bloggers who have been around since the beginning of Zaadz… and some of them get very few comments in their blogs. – a few bloggers that get lots of comments and a vast majority of bloggers that get few – popularity: I find the people who get the most comments tend to do so usually for one of three reasons – they post something very provocative, maybe even suggestive, and people start going to town commenting; they have a “blog party” of some sort and invite a crazy amount of comments; and – i think this is the biggie – they invest deeply in people’s lives through steady, daily grapevining, blog commenting, pod participation, PMing and off Gaia activity, so when they blog, their friends are deeply drawn to respond. John and Shirl and BB and Peridot are good examples of two or three of the above, depending on the person and of course those who are three out of three are going to hit the jackpot for getting comments.

The truth is, to reap big on Gaia, you have to sow very heavily. You can invest an insane amount of time writing detailed comments and blogs and pod posts, but if people are not feeling connected with you enough for whatever reason, you can get very frustrated because that massive investment is reaping little in the way of dividends for you.

8) lack of interest in the topics blog about – very intellectual topics and intellectual crowd around here seems mostly limited to integral folks –  very alternative viewpoints, unusual  books –  not the most positive and activist person even in the normal world.  And certainly not on Gaia where positivity and activism is idealized above all else:

I think you’re being very insightful here. It’s true that people blog and comment about things that tweak their interest. I have gotten into many a discussion with you where initially there was only one aspect that drew me in, but as we discussed, I realised that there was a hidden gold mine in your blog and got more and more into it. But what drew me in most initially was our friendship. As you have mentioned, you have blogged about things just because I am interested in them, and that has really been a powerful draw for me for two reasons – because I am so interested, but also deeply touched that you would go to that kind of time and trouble for our friendship and better understanding something or someone I care about that much.

Yes, your blogs are very intellectual and non integral, and I’ve noticed too that such blogs are marginalised for all the reasons mentioned in the above points. Similarly the very alternative viewpoint and minority tastes in literature do make it less likely that you will find enough people to connect on a regular basis, all above things being equal. And not being the most positive and activist person – again addressed above in terms of heavy heavy sowing and reaping.

9) not having a pity party, want to blog, but not in isolation, but the more reach out to connect to others, the less time to blog. Fitting in with the Gaia community.  Whether the community resonates with  you, time is limited. how to choose?

This is the crux of the matter. Again and again I see people reach a level of frustration for usually a number of the reasons you mention, and others you haven’t like negative interactions, being unfriended, feeling stalked, etc etc, and just blowing and disappearing.

Very few, like Mary recently, and like you here, really take the time and energy consciously to work through why they are frustrated and how they can be happier. Each one who does, though, usually reaches a place of happiness. In some cases it means leaving Gaia, but mostly it’s just adjusting to a more comfortable way of Gaiaing. As you say, you can choose to limit to one pod, or mostly to one pod. Comment deeply but on less blogs. Blog as much as you need without giving energy to whether or not people comment, because we cannot guarantee outcome.

I feel confident that you will find your way, because you are such a clear and deep thinker with heart.

debyemm : Tree Hugging Dirt Worshiper

about 12 hours later

debyemm said

Ben & Nicole,

Well, I didn’t mean it as a criticism.  I just felt like I was at a party, where 2 people are having an interesting conversation that I happen to overhear.  What to do?  I’d love to join the conversation but the 2 are so “involved” in communicating with one another, it feels on my outside position like an intrusion.

I feel sad to have caused frustration but that wasn’t my intent and Ben wrote me the kindest note that made me feel very welcome.  I am also glad that Nicole understood that my willingness to express “feelings” brought to light a perception that others reading may have had but weren’t willing to step in a little closer and say, hey, I’d love to enter the conversation, though I’ll admit I’m a bit lost as to exactly what you are talking about – it does sound so interesting, I do want to learn something from you.


Waving wildly at my friend Aley who never seems to lack for comments on her blog …

 Meenakshi : ~

about 12 hours later

Meenakshi said

Ben, this is the kind of thing many feel on blogs or pods both on and off-line: why are people not responding to me? 
I’m sure most bloggers feel this way; but I’ve realized through the years of having off-line and on-line groups; that only a small minority of people who read, will actually write. There are all sorts of reasons; but in the end, it really boils down to one thing:
you came to blog which can be enjoyable in and of itself; then, having come here, you realized you enjoy networking.

Now would you mind if it is done more in pods than in blogs?  You could link your blog to a pod —and if you aren’t pod-ded out already, I would invite you to do this in the Gaia Networking – Enhance Your Community Experience; on
 Networking on Blogs board. Otherwise, can I provide a link?

In that synchronistic way of events; I was going to start a discussion on this topic; and it would be great to see how to handle this. That still does not mean we will get more comments, but who knows! We could provide tips for each other.

I’m going to read Nicole’s and Aley’s comments now.

**Preachy tone alert**: The best thing I’ve learned about disappointment, is that I need to change my thought. Or sometimes, to let the thoughts flow and not hold on too much to any one. I have found disappointment to take so much energy; that I can find more time if I just let it go.

And then I find that I am probably not acknowledging each of my friends who have commented on my blog. Why should it be numbers? As a qualitiative reasearcher, I know how even a small sample can be representative of a larger one.

As a professor [yes, Aley, me too, but many years ago]; I was given a piece of advice by the college  Principal–“If you can touch the life of even one student, think yourself successful.” To which I will now add: “you may never know whose life you have touched. So, listen in that silence and let each voice count.”

I think you have reached out and done many positive things; and surrounded as you are, by dear friends here, I am certain…as I can see above my comment that Nicole is, that you will get over this minor frustration as a pebble in your path.

After all, you have spoken for many.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 13 hours later

Nicole said

again, Ben, forgive me, but I would like to respond to Deb and Meenakshi.

Deb, no, I didn’t experience it as a criticism at all, I just wanted to continue to clear up the fact that we are open to people joining the discussion.But I totally know that party feeling and understand especially if we are getting into deep waters and sort of an in way of talking (as close friends tend to do) that it would make it harder to jump in. Thanks so much for articulating all that.

Meenakshi, I was telling Ben that I feel that this would be a good blog to link to for the Mod Pod and the Ambassadors, and he is happy for me to link to those. I believe this is a key Gaia issue, as so many experience these feelings.


Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 14 hours later

Marmalade said

I titled this blog post ‘minor frustration’ and I did so intentionally with the lower caps.  I was just expressing how I was feeling and it isn’t meant as a criticism towards anyone.  Everyone has different reasons for being here and everyone chooses different ways to spend their limited time.

To be honest, Gaia (and the people here) has gone beyond my expectations of it.  I’ve never come across a community as active as this one.  My frustration isn’t anything unusual because I often feel frustrated early on when joining an online group, and this feeling was magnified by how large Gaia is.  Frustration is an emotion which is valid in and of itself no matter what reasons or rationalizations I give for it.  My expression of emotion is more important than the words I used to express it.

My frustration isn’t specifically about Gaia.  I’m just trying to get my bearings in a new environment.  I’m at a point where I realize how limited my time is.  Also, I’m figuring out the social dynamics of the place overall and the social dynamics of various groups.

I wasn’t really expecting that many people would respond to this blog.  My feelings are serious in that my criticisms aren’t exaggerations, but I wasn’t attempting to start a serious discussion.  I would’ve put more thought into it before posting if I knew it would be interesting to others.  I mostly just thought ot  it as self-expression.

I was a bit worried that someone might respond critically towards my criticisms.  I’m certainly not in a mood to try to defend my position because I don’t have much of anything that needs defending.  I’m actually pretty darn happy with Gaia.  My venting of my frustrations came off strongly because I was feeling frustrated in general… I just spent 2 weeks non-stop with family and little time for myself.

But I am glad a discussion has started.  And I appreciate all of your comments here.  I’ll probably comment more later.

ps Deborah, I wasn’t frustrated by your comments.  My frustration was just a general mood and you just happened to post at the same time I was feeling this way.

Samme : Prince of Rainbows<3

about 14 hours later

Samme said

These are what I do on how I maximize my productivity and enjoyment here at Gaia and I want to share this for those who will read or listen;

1.  I click on the Groups tab and then My Groups.  I only visit those pods that have a “new” attached at the end of the pod name.  I don’t click on the pod title but rather on the word “new” that little orange thing.  This will show the  newest post  to the oldest.  I only read what’s new and comment if I want to.  Of course I have to post new materials on my own pods that I cultivated.
2.  For reading the blogs of my friends, I place my cursor on the word “blog” and then underneath that click on the word “friends”.  This will show a page of all my friends’ recent blog going down the page.  I go down the line, read and if I want to comment, will do so. 
3.  I comment on a lot of people’s blogs when I can.  I also write on their grapevine and mind you, not copy and paste. 
4.  I “tag” my email on gaia so I can quickly go back to ones I need to go back to. 
5.  I joined all pods that came my way.  I even join pods that I stumbled upon. 
6.  I do not delete other people’s posts or mine as this might be seen by somebody in the future and it just might help them deal or cope with whatever they are going through. 
7.  I have no right to place judgment on anybody. 
8.  I always pick myself up and keep on going even though I am alone on my journey.  But maybe sometimes when I look back there will be somebody following.
9.  I smile cause that is the extra incentive.
10.  I always say thank you and hope that I don’t forget.
Thank you,

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 15 hours later

Marmalade said

Nice list.  I always like when people numerically list their points very clearly and concisely.

Some of the things you mention are what I’m now figuring out.  I too want to “maximize my productivity and enjoyment”.

Thanks for your contribution,

debyemm : Tree Hugging Dirt Worshiper

about 16 hours later

debyemm said


Thanks for the hint about finding friends blogs – wow – something really new I have just learned after a year and a half here.


Glad I wasn’t your frustration.  I understand now the larger context.


Alluvja :  Love In Action

about 17 hours later

Alluvja said

Hi Marmelade,

I see you around in conversations and always enjoy reading your comments.
When I first joined Gaia a copple of months ago I was so overwhelmed and wanted to respond to so many things that I found myself staying up all night for a while! Of course that doesn’t work for long.
There are many discussions I enjoy but I am simply making choices and just react once in a while for it takes too much of my time. I am not frustrated with Gaia but I do share some of the disappointment especially in the friends area. In general the friendship thing is great and I am happy to connect in this way with many people but there are some cases I just don’t know how to go about it.
I am trying to keep connected with friends, either by saying hello once in a while thru the grapevine or commenting in pods or blogs, or e-mail. Now because of timelimits I don’t feel it always has to be a lot of stuff,  but I want to indicate that I do think about them and am interested. What is disappointing to me is that some people who invited me to be their friend never even take the time to maintain some kind of contact or even comment on a response or letter etc. That’s ok for a while to me for I also feel it should not be an obligation, people can just want to withdraw for a while etc., but if I added them as a friend and never hear from them and they don’t respond to any of my initiatives  I am really wondering what is the purpose of friendship.  Is it just a matter of hoarding as many friends as possible on your profile? There are people that ask questions or suggestions in their blog or in pods and then I take the time to respond and I never even hear from them. I think that’s crude and I’ve been thinking about deleting those ‘ friends’    but I kind of find that hard as well, so  how do other people deal with that I am wondering?

I don’t get a lot of visits or reactions on my blog , not even from my friends which I  kind of feel dissappointed about  but  I find blogging foremost an avenue to express some of my thoughts and feeling and if people want to share I welcome that very much but i have chosen not  to invest to much energy into getting frustrated about it.
With pods I feel a bit different. You engage in a pod to communicate. Now in active pods there is enough response but in pods that are less active I find it embarassing that at first joining a pod some people put in a hello as introduction, or a nice poem or whatever and they simply never get a reaction, not even from the pod cultivator. That’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to other people. That I find frustrating. That is also why I reacted to Nicoles question in Gaia Support on the possiblity of making a list on the activity of pods rather than the amount of members.

Well Marmelade, I think eventhough at Gaia we hold the intention to be the change we want to see happen, we are all people with our beauty and our flaws so in that respect it is a lot like real life. And a great opportunity  not only to share but also learn  to deal with our frustration of unfullfilled expectations etc.
You see what I have learned from this thread of yours is that I shouldn’t take it so personally. It apparently also happens to people that are active in all kinds of interesting discussions, have great blog etc.
Thank you for sharing, Marmelade and see you around.


Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 20 hours later

Nicole said

hi Ben, i feel guilty that because i decided to publicise this blog so much you have had to deal with people who are genuinely frustrated! thanks for being so gosh darned sweet about it.

I know you are really happy here most of the time and of course so am I, but I am delighted that we are talking openly about some of the difficulties.

Sometimes minor things could make a big difference. For example if new people knew what the colours of people’s names on their friends list meant (I just figured that out LOL) and how to find their friends’ blogs and how always to clipboard their comments so they don’t get eaten by the Gaia monster, there would be a lot higher satisfaction.

How do we support and communicate with each other to make our Gaia experience the best it can be? Gotta run but back later this aft. love you all!

about 20 hours later

Enlightened.thinker said

One thing I have learned here Ben is that the blog that is no big deal, or the blog you may have whipped out rapidly, can have wings you would never have expected!

There is no judgment here at all, and even minor frustrations can be catalysts for change…

so ….enjoy and revel in the wonderful blog you have posted, and also in the fact that so many wise “ole” Gaians have responded with love! LOL

The wind takes these blogs and we all feel the breeze!

And WOW Meenakshi! I knew tou were a prof i my heart of hearts!

Enjoy the journey Ben, we are all here with you…and that is a wonderful blessings!


Bowing deeply to you all my dear friends! And waving back frantically at Deb!

~Kes : be cause

about 21 hours later

~Kes said

Great Blog Group!!!  The end result is so worth reposting.  I get overwhelmed at times of where to post and do read some blogs without acknowledging or adding to the comment section because this site is such a spiritual candy store. There are so many awesome viewpoints and I keep coming back for more and hope I can exchange some of my own experience because I receive so much.
I have found that if I sit too long at the computer it can become introverting so I go outside and either take a walk or do some work in the garden to become more extroverted.  Reversely if I am out doing heavy work, it is calming to sit here and share with my worldly friends.  This helps.
I have a “do it now” policy where I answer my e mails first then check the rounds on my groups and either just read or post if I feel I can contribute.  I am guilty of not commenting on everything I read and will start pushing the “I like it button” or give seeds or comment on the grapevine as a courtesy while I am in their moment.
If things get to serious for me, I post a youtube or write something upbeat and create more insouciance in my attitude as the physical world does align up under that showing we are as spiritual beings more senior to seriousity. 🙂  I even hang out in the play pod if I find myself too solid.
If there is a pod that requires me to come up with a more detailed answer then I just do that and allow it time but then that day don’t make the rounds.I do check the “new” orange tab and find that there are more active people to help share with.  Basically I treat things as a circle or a cycle of action to start the blog or comment or pod, go through the change of reading and adding to the motion and ending it to where its done.  Then when I route off of the computer I do something to extrovert like take a walk or just go outside and give myself space.
Hope this helps.  Thanks for posting such an insightful and most helpful blog.

Mamakat : Voyager

1 day later

Mamakat said

Hi Marmalade!

From one cat to another, I hear you…I’ve been up and down about this blogging business since I’ve been here.  I guess my only advice to you is BLOG FOR YOURSELF–it’s a free soapbox, journal, and self-discovery tool all rolled into one!   And it’s also a way for a wandering traveller to suddenly find you on the road.  I’ve met a lot of kindred spirits here that way. 

You have a special light to share with the world and we WILL see it eventually.  Thank you for being you and for sharing yourself with this community.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

“but if I added them as a friend and never hear from them and they don’t respond to any of my initiatives  I am really wondering what is the purpose of friendship.  Is it just a matter of hoarding as many friends as possible on your profile?”

I’ve wondered about this. 

I’ve been reluctant to invite lots of friends because it seems kind of weird.  Many people seem to invite friends as a way to connect with others before they even really get to know the person.  I’d rather get to know someone first and then use the friend invitation as a way of deepening an already developing connection.  I don’t want lots of connections… just a few that feel meaningful to me. 

Even so, I do usually accept friend invites when they come my way.  But I can’t help wondering what purpose it serves in most cases.

“There are people that ask questions or suggestions in their blog or in pods and then I take the time to respond and I never even hear from them. I think that’s crude and I’ve been thinking about deleting those ‘ friends’    but I kind of find that hard as well, so  how do other people deal with that I am wondering?”

So far, I’ve posted around quite a bit.  And, mostly, I don’t concern myself too much about my comments after posting them especially the more brief comments.  The main reason is that I get distracted by all of the new opportunities to post that I forget where I’ve already posted.  This is a problem in itself as I’d like to keep better track of my own activity.  Hopefully, I haven’t left anyone hanging in a thread I responded to.  I’m still working out an efficient method of keeping track of everything.

I try to focus mostly on pods and blogs that are more active.  The main place I’ve been posting on is the God Pod and I follow the discussions there very closely… partly because I’m a mod there.

“I don’t get a lot of visits or reactions on my blog , not even from my friends which I  kind of feel dissappointed about  but  I find blogging foremost an avenue to express some of my thoughts and feeling and if people want to share I welcome that very much but i have chosen not  to invest to much energy into getting frustrated about it.”

Yeah, people either comment or they don’t. 

The best decision I’ve made so far on Gaia is to join and be active on the God Pod.  I’ve met many interesting people there.  Its where I connected with Nicole and she has been a helpful guide in figuring out this Gaia community. 

I don’t see the God Pod as taking away from my focus on blogging.  Some of the members there also blog.  And many blogs (including some of my own) get posted in discussion threads.

“With pods I feel a bit different. You engage in a pod to communicate. Now in active pods there is enough response but in pods that are less active I find it embarassing that at first joining a pod some people put in a hello as introduction, or a nice poem or whatever and they simply never get a reaction, not even from the pod cultivator. That’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to other people. That I find frustrating.”

I’ve joined inactive or less active pods.  But, for the most part, I’ve limited my postings to more active pods.  Sadly, some of the pods that look the most interesting have gone by the wayside.  I’d attempt to revive some of them If I thought I could and if I had more time.

Thanks for your detailed response!  In fact, thanks to everyone for all of the detailed responses.  I love to give and receive thorough comments.  Its ironic that its this blog entry that has ended up as being my most popular so far.  🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

“Limited time is problematic…but do what you love first, just for yourself…blog that thought or idea. I realize it is frustrating to feel no one is listening…but remember this is your journey and all you do and say and feel is a wonderful legacy to your journey…”

That is good advice.  I do love blogging.  For sure I never run out of thoughts and ideas… its nice to capture them in words before they slip away.

“hi Ben, i feel guilty that because i decided to publicise this blog so much you have had to deal with people who are genuinely frustrated! thanks for being so gosh darned sweet about it.”

I really don’t mind.  I’m enjoying the discussion.

“Sometimes minor things could make a big difference. For example if new people knew what the colours of people’s names on their friends list meant (I just figured that out LOL)”

Would ya mind sharing what those darn colours mean?  I had noticed them.

“From one cat to another, I hear you…I’ve been up and down about this blogging business since I’ve been here.  I guess my only advice to you is BLOG FOR YOURSELF-it’s a free soapbox, journal, and self-discovery tool all rolled into one!   And it’s also a way for a wandering traveller to suddenly find you on the road.  I’ve met a lot of kindred spirits here that way.”

I give a hearty ‘meow’ to that!  I have had similar thoughts.  All I can do is put it out there.  I just enjoy expressing my views and sharing info.  I know that when I’ve done web searches that some of the most useful info and insightful povs can come from blogs.  The more I blog then the more opportunity for connections to happen.

“this site is such a spiritual candy store.”


“I have a “do it now” policy…”

You sound so systematic.  It sounds impressive.  I’m much more haphazard in my methodology

“If things get to serious for me, I post a youtube…”

Youtube is awesome.  I try to break up my serious blogs with a silly video or two.

Thanks all!  Please come again.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

Exactly Ben! Now why would the Gaia devs set up something as helpful as this and not explain it? Sigh.

If a name is orange (or red) on your friends list or in the members list of a pod, it means the person is online, if it’s blue he or she is offline. I only figured this out because a friend asked me about it, and I noticed that all the orange ones were those who had recently visited , so deduced what was happening.

My friend instantly made the link with the red pill, blue pill from the Matrix, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Gaia devs had that in the back of their minds when designing this feature LOL

Yeah! I’m glad all my blog pimping worked out for you, Ben. At first I was worried it would get negative but it’s turned out to be a great resource.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

Thank you Nicole for enlightening me.  There is only one problem.  I think my colours are broken because your name is always orange.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

um… blushing

guess i’m busted eh? LOL hopeless Gaia addict

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

1 day later

1Vector3 said

Hey Ben, I am rushing off to my day and will read more thoroughly and respond more later, but I myself certainly do not “value activism and positivity above all,”   and I think you know I’m as much a minority reader and thinker as you….

And I hope you have good sandbags around your house…… heard unpleasant things about the Iowa River…..

More later, OM Bastet

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Flooding problems, Ben?

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Om and Nicole,

Thanks for the concern.

No, flooding isn’t a problem directly where I’m living even though I’m only a short walk away from where it is flooding. The main part of Iowa City is on higher ground. Most of the buildings near the river are University and businesses.

The water levels are still below what they were in ’93. But it won’t peak for another week or so. The same buildings that were flooded 15 yrs ago probably will be flooded again. It makes one wonder why anyone would’ve built there in the first place. Cheap land I guess.

I was walking down by the river with my parents. It was interesting to see all of the fortifications that were being built with concrete and sand bags. The water was getting darn close to the bottom of the bridges, but so far they haven’t been closed around here.

Now the Reserves have been called in. I saw 5 large army trucks hauling sand. Whatever they’re going to do, they better do it quick.

There is one neighborhood down by the river. I’m sure the people living there are quite worried. It doesn’t look good for them as the park next to that neighborhood has now essentially become a part of the river.

OTOH the ducks seemed to be having a good time.

We were just hit by a tornado a couple years back. Mother Nature just won’t leave us alone.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

let’s pray that the reserves etc do the trick so that neighbourhood by the river doesn’t get flooded!

Alluvja :  Love In Action

3 days later

Alluvja said

Hello Ben,

I want to thank you as well for your detailed reaction at my comment. I find it helpful to hear how others are dealing with these ‘minor frustrations’.  Fortunelely they are ‘minor’  to me too and more and more I am just accepting that things are just the way they are and i am focussing on all the beauty and communications that ís going on here.
In that respect I thought it would be nice to share here 2 unexpected wonderful things that happened thanks to Gaia: I met my first 2 Gaia members life!   One of which was already a friend here on Gaia but I didn’t actually know at first she lived in the Netherlands as well(cos she’s not dutch) and how close by she lived!  I visited her today in Amsterdam and we had dinner and a great time!  And then yesterday I went to an evening that was announced here on Gaia on the dutch pod by a member from the Netherlands that had been part of the organization of a filmmaking event and yesterday 10 short spiritual films were presented. The makers had the challenger do do that in 48 hours, and the winner got a sum of money to make another spiritual movie.
So I thought I wanted to share that because so many members are from the US and abroad that i found it quite amazing connecting with these people without really having looked for it!
The universe is so abundant!

Have a wonderful day,
Love and light,

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

Hi Alluvja, is one of the Dutch you met Arjan? That is so cool!

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I’m back!  The internet kept coming and going after I posted my previous comment here, and then I lost my connection entirely all of yesterday.  The flooding must’ve knocked out some important lines.  I have much I want to catch up with here on Gaia, but I don’t have the time at the moment.  I’m going to do some volunteer work down by the river.  I’ll probably be able to post some tonight.

Nicole, I’m almost certain that the neigbhorhood by the river is flooded by now.  I doubt the sandbags would hold as we got more rain last night.  It flooded in ’93 and we are above that level.  The river is at about 30 feet and will continue to rise for another week.  We are already past the record high point and it will increase by at least another few feet.

All the affected areas have been evacuated.  No one should be in danger, but there will be much property damage.

Alluvja :  Love In Action

3 days later

Alluvja said


I saw the water floods on TV and it was mighty bad. I want to wish you and all the people in your community all the best and hope plenty of help will come to prevent that worse things happen. It’s good that people are evacuated and for now the safety of people seems secure,  but still I saw some of the sadness on the faces of people who lost a lot of personal stuff.  It must be terrible to find your homes so damaged. I remember when i was a little girl there was a terrible flood in the south west part of the Netherlands, many people lost their lives and many more their homes. After that the engineers started to make out famous Delta works. But now with all this climate stuff new and even better things have to be constructed. The Netherlands have a lot of history and experience in fighting the water. But we can never stop being aware, half of the country lies beneath sealevel. Some of our finest engineers are working now in the New Orleans area.
Anyway do your good work and bless all of you.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

Yes, you are the world leaders in protection from the sea, of necessity.

Oh dear, Ben, that is a very difficult situation for your area….

Marmalade : Gaia Child

4 days later

Marmalade said

Hello Alluvja,

Thanks for you kind thoughts.

I did some sandbagging.  I’m sure I’ll feel it in the morning.

Unfortunately, almost all of the areas previously sandbagged have been breached.  That neighborhood was flooded, but I didn’t see it and so I don’t how bad it is.  A large part of the campus by the river is flooded.  I’m hoping the art museum is up high enough.

There are three locations they are still trying to protect.  Two of the areas are the water plant and the elctric plant which are both directly on the river.  If the water plant is flooded, then of course the city’s water would be undrinkable.  The other area is the University library which is also close to the water.  That is where I was volunteering.  It will probably be fine, but its hard to tell as the water might rise another 4 ft. 

All of the volunteers were much more focued in these last few areas and the sandbagging was going quickly, but there isn’t much to be done other than wait.  Sandbagging can only do so much.  in the areas where it flooded past the sandbags, it probably had very little to do with the water going over.  There was such a vast area they were trying to protect that they were spread too thin.  The library is being protected on the side facing the river, but upriver its already breached and so may flood the library from that side.  The problem is that they were planning based on their experience from ’93 which is no longer applicable.

After volunteering, I walked along the river and it was truly amazing.  There is nothing surprising about the flooding as all of these buildings were knowingly built in a floodplain afterall.  Silly humans.  What was amazing was just nature being nature.  The City Park was entirely flooded along with the road on the other side making the water there about 4 times as wide as the river normally is.  Approximately where that road is was where a tributary of the river flowed 100 or so years ago.  The river was just reclaiming it from the humans that filled it in.  A flooding like this is nothing compared to something like a monsoon, but still its awesome to witness.

Meanwhile, other parts of the US would love some of our water.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

4 days later

1Vector3 said

You were generous, Ben, and there seems to be a lot at stake there. Wow.

I can’t understand how people can live and build in flood-prone areas. I can only understand how I can knowingly continue to live in an earthquake-prone area. Potentially BIG quakes. ROTFL !!!!!!

I don’t have a TV, but your descriptions give a good sense of what it’s like there. The only good thing about these disasters is people pulling together….

Blessings to everyone there and everywhere,
OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

You bring up a good point Om. 

I was thinking about this.  Why do we help others even when they’ve contributed to their own troubles?  One could say that you help others because one day you may need help, and that is a practical attitude.  My answer is that we help others because we can… not because they’ll necessarily help us later, not because they will appreciate what we do for them, not because they deserve it, and certainly not because we will be rewarded in heaven. 

As you say, the good comes from people pulling together.  This good remains good no matter what the results of all the effort.

For instance, I give my spare change to the homeless sometimes, but I don’t worry about what they do with it.  If they get drunk or buy cigarettes, then so be it.  At the same time, I’m sure some people I’ve given change to bought food with it.  Whatever the case, my reason for giving to them is not in hope that their life will be turned around.  When I give, I do so because I want to.  I feel the act of giving in itself can be good if its done with no strings attached.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

4 days later

1Vector3 said

Perspicacious analysis, Ben !!!!!! I am totally aligned…… It’s sooooo highly beneficial to let go of results. As a teacher, that’s been hard for me, but now I do my teaching and can walk away knowing I did my best to help someone “get” it, and if they don’t, so be it. Sometimes I don’t even bother to check if it’s not an ongoing relationship. I used to obsess about whether people “got” it, and fret and pour out tons of smothering effort !!!

The worst disaster I think I’ve personally been in was the multi-state blackout of fall 1965. I was in Manhatten. We thought for awhile it was WWIII. The stories of generosity are amazing….

OM Bastet

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

it is great to see the human spirit rise to these challenges though we don’t wish them on anyone

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

12 days later

Marmalade said

Back to the topic of the Gaia community…  Dave wrote a blog recently that relates.  And I wrote the following comment:

Interesting experience you’ve had.  I think it can take a while to connect to such a large community as this.  Its easy for newcomers to get loss in the masses.  As I’ve belonged to other communities, I realized this was an issue early on.  The reason I joined and posted on pods was because I figured that was probably the only way I’d connect with the community at large.

When I came here, I just wanted a place to blog.  I wasn’t really looking for another community as I’ve belonged to many.  But I did want to connect if only just to get some comments on my blog.  Also, I’m so used to writing online via thread discussions that blogging felt kinda lonely.

Its strange because, even though I’ve wanted to connect, I’ve resisted inviting others as friends for the most part.  I rarely even use the seeds.  The other communities I’ve joined didn’t have these kinds of functions and they seem weird to me.

I have looked around for people with similarities to my interests and worldview.  If someone seems to have some things in common, then I’ll put their blog on notification and watch it.  If I end up being interested enough to comment on their blog, then I can invite them as a friend.  But I don’t want my friend list to be too long.

Like you, I’ve looked for other active bloggers, but activity isn’t enough.  I look for bloggers who write more than short answers to the question of the day, and I look for people who comment a lot in other people’s blogs.  I also look at their profile, but that often doesn’t say much.  I do look at the picture, but that doesn’t figure into my decision making to any great extent.  However, if a picture looks too light and fluffy, then I’m wary.  I’ve found light and fluffy pictures often signify light and fluffy blogs.

I have used the resonance thingy a bit.  Its quite a nice little feature.

I’ve only tried the friends of a friends approach in an haphazard way.  I watch my friends blogs and the blogs on notifications.  When I see a comment I like, I’ll check out the person’s profile and blog if only to get some context for where they’re coming from.  But this has led to me inviting that person as a friend at least on one occasion.

This friends of friends thing is interesting.  It creates these little groups that are semi-enclosed.  I’ve noticed that many of my friends tend to have the same friends.  But then I sometimes come across someone outside of my circle of friends and they have a large set of friends who I’ve never even seen around.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

12 days later

Nicole said

thanks Ben! That was an interesting blog and discussion.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

12 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Nicole!  You’re welcome.  I decided to link to Dave’s blog because it related to this one, but also because this so far has been my most popular blog and so I figured it would give some advertising to Dave’s blog.

That was a good demonstration of Gaia community.  Meenakshi commented on Dave’s blog because she noticed I had.  You commented there because you followed the link I provided above.  Then Centria noticed you commented over there and followed over with her own comment.

I’m sure that kind of thing becomes even more common when you’ve been here for a while.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

13 days later

Nicole said

indeed! in the end we are all following each other around in a mad mixy daisy chain lol

What is Intellectuality?

I’ve been thinking about the Fox pundits lately, but today I was thinking about the relationship (or lack thereof) between mainstream news and intellectuality.

I’m surprised when people try to defend Glenn Beck as an intellectual.  Even though he isn’t utterly stupid, he is far from being an intellectual.  His tendencies towards emotional melodrama and conspiracy theorizing show a lack of critical thinking skills.  And, as far as I can tell, his education is limited mostly to the research he does on the web… which is fine as far as it goes (I’m not dissing the web).

Bill O’Reilly is more of a genuine intellectual.  He has higher education in political analysis.  O’Reilly may not be the most profoundly insightful commentator and he may lack intellectual humility, but still he is an intellectual of sorts.  He is at least sometimes capable of calm reasoned analysis… when he isn’t shouting down opponents and righteously declaring his opinions.

Ultimately, O’Reilly is an ideologue just like Beck.  Whether one uses reason or paranoia to support one’s presupposed ideology, it’s not that big of a difference.  Intellectually respectable or not, O’Reilly and Beck seem to agree on a similar worldview which isn’t essentially intellectual in nature.

Anyways, that is just preamble.  The real reason for this post is my consideration of what defines intellectuality.

Real intellectuality isn’t just intelligence and it’s not even just critical thinking skills.  Both of those are part of it, but they mean little if they are simply motivated by non-rational impulses and used to rationalize non-rational beliefs.  A real intellectual looks at the facts before coming to a conclusion.  A real intellectual is reserved in their opinions and wary of biases.  A real intellectual is humble in their opinion, is willing to admit they’re wrong, and is willing to change their view to fit the facts.  A real intellectual not only looks at the facts but specifically looks for facts that might disprove their assumptions, seeks out reasons for why the may be wrong, considers all criticisms and all alternative viewpoints.

At this point, Beck has been left in the dust.  Pseudo-intellectual conspiracy theorizing does require a certain amount of intelligence and creates a facade of rationality, but it’s so far from being intellectually respectable that it deserves mockery.  O’Reilly, on the other hand, comes closer and yet still falls short.  He may sometimes play the role of an intellectual and may make some intelligent comments, but first and foremost he is an opinionator.

A real intellectual may be a hard thing to find.  Aren’t we all motivated by unconscious assumptions and impulses that bias our thinking?  Yes.  However, there are those who seek to look beyond their biases and there are those who embrace their biases.  A real intellectual may not be a genius and may not have any grand insights, but what is important is that they’re humble in accepting their limitations.  They know what they know and they know what they don’t know, and they don’t pretend to know more than they do.

More important than anything, a real intellectual has to either be fairly self-aware or else committed to a methodology that forces objectivity.  In science, peer review forces an approximation of objectivity in that personal biases tend to get filtered out over time.  In news reporting, fact-checking teams working behind the scenes to keep the reporting honest.  However, news reporting will never be as objective as science.  The fact-checkers are only as unbiased as the company that hires them.  Thusly, a news network such as Fox with a clear agenda will, even when using fact-checkers, promote biased reporting.  Furthermore, fact-checking has become less of a priority as news agencies have lost money and pundits have become more popular.

It’s hard to find real intellectuals on tv these days.  Even when they manage to sneak on for a few minutes, all that tv news allows for are soundbites.  To the average viewer, a real intellectual is boring.  People want to be entertained.  If people wanted to think, they’d read a book rather than watch the news.

An example of a real intellectual would be someone like Noam Chomsky.  He has some useful insight about why real intellectuals don’t make good tv talking heads.  I’ve never come across any other intellectual than sounds as calmly reasonable as Chomsky.  I actually get the sense that he has some genuine insight, that he actually knows what he is talking about.  He isn’t loud and bombastic.  Even in his strong opinions, he states everything with cited facts and clear logic.  He doesn’t slander those he disagrees with but simply analyzes why they are wrong.

Nonetheless, even Chomsky has an agenda.  His focus is politics and he wants to influence the world.  So, he isn’t simply stating facts.  He has biases, but he is open about his biases and he carefully explains the reasons for his beliefs.  He is what I would consider a real intellectual.  That is what he is and it isn’t just a role he is playing.  It’s just his way of viewing the world.  Chomsky’s intellectuality serves the purposes of intellectuality.  He doesn’t simply pay lip-service to it but rather genuinely believes in the value of the intellect.

Okay, that is my definition of intellectuality.  An intellectual can be an atheist or a theist, a scientist or a philosopher.  But, whatever he is, he combines rigorous critical thinking with humble open-mindedness.  As I already said, real intellectuality serves the purpose of intellectuality.

That said, I want to push this one step further.  Intellectuality itself is a bias.  It’s a way of viewing the world, a way of filtering out what one deems unuseful in order to focus on what one deems useful.

I consider myself an intellectual in that I often involve myself in intellectual activities and I try to be intellectually humble.  However, my intellectuality serves a profound sense of truth that includes but isn’t limited to intellectuality.  Intellectuality is just one of many perspectives which doesn’t mean I don’t respect intellectuality.  It may have its limitations, but it’s irreplaceable in the fight against pseudo-intellectuality.  If one isn’t capable of real intellectuality, then there is little hope for one having the clarity of mind to grasp even deeper truths.

It is intellect that helps one to clear away the mud, but it won’t necessarily help one to see the gold and tell it apart from fool’s gold.  Intellectuality is just a tool, but as it’s a way of viewing the world it’s easy to get lost in this one perspective.  To probe the foundations of mind and thought, to question intellectuality itself demands a wider set of tools.  As such, I’m a truth-seeker and I use whatever helps me to ascertain the truth.  This necessitates the intellect because even non-intellectual truths require some intellectual ability to give them form and to communicate them to others.

The relationship between intellect and truth is hard to clarify.  An intellectual may or may not be a truth-seeker, and a truth-seeker may or may not be an intellectual… but more often than not the two go hand in hand.

Let me use an example to differentiate an intellectual from a truth-seeker.  In some recent articles, Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins each wrote an essay about religion and science.  Karen Armstrong argued for non-literal religious truth as separate from the scientific endeavor.  Richard Dawkins argued for a dismissal of religion by interpreting it literally and showing that it fails scientific literalism.  Dawkins is an intellectual, but not a truth-seeker.  Armstrong is an intellectual and a truth-seeker.  As for the literalist religious type, they are definitely not intellectuals even when they use intellectual-sounding arguments to rationalize their apologetics and for this reason they’re not likely to be truth-seekers either.  The materialistic atheist and the anti-intellectual theist both believe they have found truth and so have little motivation to seek it.

To be both a real intellectual and a truth-seeker is a difficult but worthy aspiration.  The two jostle against each other and create an unresolvable tension.  And this tension is what motivates all great thinkers.