Inverse clue gathering

So, in my people watching analyses, I usually tend to watch a person and then figure out who that person is, their occupation and the like. Now, there’s a technique which is quite useful in doing it and it’s to do the inverse. Basically, if you know who the person is, try to see what are their distinctive features that would characterize them if you didn’t know who they were.

Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Take, for example, bus drivers. You know a bus driver when you see one because that’s the person driving the bus. Megasherlock right there. But no, seriously, you see bus drivers all the time if you use public transport. The thing with this approach is to try and find their distinctive features, what makes them busdriverish and remember that so you can use it afterwards when they’re not wearing their uniform and driving a bus.

So, what would be a distinctive feature for bus drivers? Well, a lot of sitting tends to make you fat, but there is a myriad of professions out there that involve a lot of sitting, so being fat is no good tell. I seriously don’t know. Maybe stiff, but that’s also something common in a lot of professions. I’m still working on that one.

For guitar players, it’s easy. You see callouses on their fingertips. Of course, you might confound them with the occasional ukulele or violin or mandolin afficionado, but you have big chances of having a guitar player, and even if you don’t, you know it’s a string instrument player, which is also good.

Drummers are easy, they practice all the time with their fingers when they’re bored.

For martial artists and dancers, you have movement that gives them away. When people who usually move in complicated ways become bored, the routines they usually do just come out on their own, with no conscious control. I’ve also noticed that martial artists often stand in public transportation without holding any bars for balance.

There are a lot of things that can characterize professions, but we’re looking for distinctive features or combinations that make distinctive features.

The next time you watch a bus driver, try to see what it is that is common to their profession. If you see a college professor, see what makes them distinctive. Is it a pattern of behavior? Is it a movement? By doing this, you get a “dictionary” of sorts, and such a dictionary will help you in further deductions.

 

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The secrets of the everyday

In my last post, I wrote about being an outside observer in every situation. This theory has not translated itself into practice, at least not in my life. I am completely aware the fact that it should, but it just hasn’t.

A week ago, someone I know found out that a certain person in their life was an alcoholic. I’ve also been in regular contact with that person and could have and indeed should have come to that conclusion, but I haven’t done that. In fact, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. When we spoke about it, we were both astounded by the fact that we hadn’t already figured it out. It was so obvious!

This got me thinking. If I am unable to figure something like that, what else am I missing? Because, unlike someone having a booze problem, there are things in my life that are far more discrete, far more hidden, inaccessible to prying eyes – my eyes. If I didn’t see this, I sure as hell didn’t see a hell of a lot more.

So I propose a challenge. In the following two weeks, we will embark on a journey of discovering the everyday. What secrets are there in your life, in your school, in your family, in your friends’ relationships – what can you unveil?

Do not limit yourself to these questions, but consider them:

Is someone having an affair?
Is someone pregnant?
Is someone sick or having an addiction problem?
Is someone broke?
Has someone started learning a new skill?
Has someone committed a crime?
Has someone broken up with somebody?

All these questions are intentionally superficial and without deeper philosophical repercussions. I am not asking you to figure out if there’s going to be war between Serbia and Kosovo, or if the changing climate is screwing up the orange crops somewhere. These questions are very important, but smaller questions related to people’s personal lives are often overlooked. Overlooked, because they are superficial, and related to the everyday. But the everyday is just as important as the crucial problems of mankind – or just as unimportant, depending on your philosophical stance of choice.

So we discover anew what the everyday hides from us. Ask yourself the questions above; don’t limit yourself to them. Truly be an outside observer. If you get too in on something, you lose your external perspective. You are first and foremost an observer; observe.

Pay attention to what’s going on and leave your discoveries (or suspicions) in the comments below. If you need resources, this website has plenty: from body language to detail analysis, to meditation and exercises. I’ll do the same.

Open your eyes.

Living your life as an outside observer

If there are certain key concepts that encompass my entire existence, then this is certainly one of them. To do all the things that I do, and to do all the things that I wish to do, and to do all the things I yet don’t know I want to do, I play the role of the outside observer.

Being an outside observer allows one to participate in any given situation, but in a way that it allows observation, deduction, and rational action. But it is much more than just that. It is a core principle. I will go from ‘I’ and ‘one’ to ‘we’. We should always strive to remove ourselves from the game and observe it from the outside. The game is in this context pretty much everything. Let’s say that there is a big political debate on an important question going on. Let’s say that it’s something really important, and that there are two main sides, together with some other options. In an American context, this might mean Democrats and Republicans, in a European one it could be Euroskeptics and pro-EU politicians.

We, who strive for greatness, are obliged to remove ourselves and observe the debate as if we were watching it on a screen.

Let’s say that there is a fight between our friends. Again, two opposing sides. We are once again obliged to remove ourselves from the fight and be an outside observer.

Let’s say that there is a war going on. Let’s say that a certain terrorist organization, that gains more and more power as time goes, gains so much power that it starts an all-out, overt war against one state. Let’s also say that we live in that one state which has fallen under attack.

Again, we must do our best and more, we must stay an outside observer.

Why do we need to do this constantly? Does it not make us lose contact with the world? If there is a key political issue, we should act on it, right? We should try to influence it. Shouldn’t we try to change the world for the better?

Well, yes… This brings me to another important point.

Doublethink

Doublethink is one of the concepts from George Orwell’s celebrated book 1984. In a nutshell, doublethink means holding two contrary opinions in mind and believing in them at the same time.

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

Doublethink is rightfully known as something bad, but there is no closer term to describe what I want to describe, so I will ask you to forget about its negative connotations and see it in a new light. Maybe we can find a more suited term for this, but in the meantime, we’ll use this one.

Humans are very kind. Humans are very violent.

These two statements are both true. This is what I mean when I say doublethink.

In the case of this post, doublethink refers to being an outside observer and being an active participant at the same time.

Being an outside observer (in the rest of the text OO) requires assuming a certain mental attitude in life in general, a sort of distance from ‘earthly affairs’. But in no way does it stop one from acting in an ‘earthly affair’. Being an OO and an AP (active participant) at the same time requires us not to commit completely to a certain course of action. It requires us to be able at all times to change our opinion completely, thus avoiding cognitive dissonance. It requires that we rid ourselves of emotional attachments to our opinions and in that way, we never really take sides and always remain outside observers.

In conclusion, we should participate in life. We should influence others, expand positive concepts and change the world. But never should we take sides before looking at the entire situation from the perspective of an outside observer, and we should continue to use this distancing while we do what we do.

Stay out, observe everything.

Numbers are important

Here’s a new exercise for you: when you get into a train, into a bar, into a classroom – close your eyes and try to remember the number of certain things. How many sunglasses were there in the room? How many white sneakers? How many cellphones were visible?

This exercise will give you more precision in your analyses. With it, you also develop your memory and visualization skills. It happened to me more than once that upon entering a certain place, I looked around, spotted the best exit options, spotted the most colorful people and the good-looking women, but had absolutely no idea who else was there. I could give a pretty good description of what I saw, how the place looked like and so on, but had astoundingly low precision when it came to numbers of things and things I didn’t find interesting.

The reason is this: I didn’t find it interesting enough. But then one day I rode a train and after some 20 minutes I became aware of the presence of the most dangerous man in that entire train. The tattoos said war veteran, the insignia said patriot/nationalist, the look said nervousness and potential PTSD, the hands said strength. One could easily infer a presence of a weapon. Understand the gravity of this: for twenty minutes I didn’t notice somebody that could do real physical harm. I didn’t notice him because there were more interesting things to watch. I glanced over him, and my superficial glance didn’t find anything interesting, EVEN THOUGH he was loaded with information.

This exercise will teach you too look at people and things you think do not have any meaningful information. And with it, you will learn an important lesson: it is often the most meaningless, bleak, uninteresting thing that has the most interesting story behind it.

Input/Output

There’s a little thing that has been bugging me for some time.

If you have a strong input, you have low output, and the vice-versa. This is a very general statement, one that probably belongs to the study of cybernetics (a generalist study of systems).

In practical terms, for me, this translates into this: if I speak, laugh and gesticulate a lot (like, really a lot) there is a big chance that what ever is going on outside, I’m not letting it pass through me, that is, I don’t perceive it. If you spend a lot of time speaking in a group of friends, you’re so concentrated on what you’re saying and what you’re about to say that you do not see the minutiae of the non-verbals, the tiny eye squints, the little pacifiers etc. If you are the one that listens a lot, and says little, you are in a most favorable position to perceive what’s going on.

Now, this has some serious practical implications. I, for one, am very social and tend to speak and laugh and gesticulate a lot. I tend to be loud. In order for me to grasp more, I need to calm down (either completely or at leas to a great extent). I don’t think there is a way I could remain output-y and still be able to perceive everything (be hyperaware).

I think that it’s just a question of balance. As almost always, balance is key. Not doing too much of one thing. So for me, talk less, listen more.

 

What about you?

 

Observation pt3

I found out that the emotional side of observation is quite important to me. It’s like this: if I’m interested in the world and the people in a child-like manner, positive, just accepting, not cluttering the information provided by the world with my “emotional” filter, bad feelings, being irritated or controled by a bad day, I observe quite more.

Here’s a workout I used to do and still do sometimes. It’s a nice thing. Start a stopwatch for 3 minutes. Observe everything around you. Listen to everything. Watch everything. Smell everything. Try to note everything that happened. If someone coughed, note it. Was it a single cough or several ones? Was it a cough of a sick person? How many cars have passed you? How many of them were the color yellow? What were their licence plates?

The ultimate goal would be to be able to have this sort of awareness whenever you want to. It might lead to clutter of unimportant details which would be bad for analysis. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s having a lot of details on hand. You should choose which ones are important for further analysis, not closing yourself to details you think aren’t worth noting. The point is, here, to create hyperawareness.

Observation pt1

One of the most important aspects of developing mental capabilities is observation, developing constant perception. To perceive, not just to see, as Sherlock Holmes would say it.
He (SH) stated that a good practitioner of the detective science should have three highly developed areas (or capabilities):
1. Perception
2. Analytic capability (deduction)
3. Fund of knowledge

Now, I think these principles should apply to me too. With some additions.

Firstly, perception. It’s imperative to use all the senses, not just sight. And it’s really neccessary to have control over the senses. Imagine when you are studying an object. You hold it in your hands, perceive it, and really focus on it. THAT is what you (that is, me) should be doing the whole time with your surroundings. And with all senses. I have been trying to do that for a while now and my experience is that it’s hard. It’s really hard. My mind just wanders to something else. I loose focus. And I have found that I can’t both think with concentration about something and at the same time concentrate on my surroundings. Multitasking kind of fails here because I’m trying to give 100% of my concentration at two separate actions. But I’ve found a rule that gives good results: trying to follow CHANGES in the environment and human interactions. So, at times such as meeting a friend or bumping into a stranger or walking into a bar, one should really focus and stop thinking in a concentrated manner, and in any case, stop daydreaming.

The Bene Gesserit explain their mental state like this: image there is a scale, and on one side there is unconsciousness, in the middle is consciousness and on the far other end there is – hyperconsciousness.
This is what I’m looking to achieve.

Granted, the process of perception is connected highly to the process of analysis/deduction/thinking and one cannot go without the other. But it’s neccessary to know how big a portion will one of the two take. If you are lying in your bed, at home, and there is a certain problem you are trying to solve, then the numbers are certainly not going to be in favour of perception. But if you were to walk outside, or meet a friend, then the powers of concentrated, problem-solving thinking diminish a little and give way to perception. One immerses oneself into reality.