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A Nose Was Blown, But Not By Me

Uggh. Today has been misery punctuated by mere discomfort, and you won't get anything profound from me tonight. What time I didn't spend in bed with Aero's butt in my armpit and QBit lying across my ankles I spent reading in my big chair, pulling Kleenexes from the box as needed and tossing them atop my desk when I finished with them. A few minutes ago, I looked at the pile of snotty Kleenex and asked myself, “Did I do all that nose-blowing this afternoon?” I was so bleary I barely remember.

Yet objective evidence (the head-sized pile of snotty tissues) suggests that I did.

And on that note I will make a very strong recommendation for the book I am mostly through reading, though I will probably have to read it a second time once I'm no longer blissed out on antihistamines. Do not miss this one: Mistakes Were made, But Not By Me, by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. (Thanks to Michael Abrash for recommending the book.) It is a masterful piece of pop psychology, beautifully written and well footnoted, that offers to explain why we justfy foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful behavior. It has been a painful read in that I have seen myself in every other paragraph, and you will too. It has been a hopeful read, however, in that I have been intuitively struggling against these damaging psychological mechanisms for much of my adult life; in fact, the book has allowed me to define what I mean by contrarianism: the act of swimming against the torrent of stupidity and falsehood that flows from the deeper mind.

If you are a person given to certainty, the book will enrage you, since it almost defines certainty as a species of mental illness. (This is also the thesis of another book that I have read but not yet reviewed here, On Being Certain, by Robert A. Burton.) No matter what you're certain about, you're wrong. So am I. All knowledge is tentative, and our memories are full of holes and scrambled pointers. I'll start talking about that once I feel better and this damned election is over.

At this point it's time for shower and bed, and my nose is running. Damn. I'm out of Kleenex. I was sure that the box was still half-full!

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