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.

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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.

Need for scientific statistical research

This whole Sherlockian concept of perception and induction (Sherlock Holmes didn’t deduce but induce. Going from specific to general is induction) is highly subjective and that’s its major drawback. It’s limited insofar that it operates on small variables – details – that should enable us to induce the “larger picture”. Our perception of details is relatively objective: we can say that most people perceive the same thing in a pretty similar manner, but interpret it differently.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

If a person does not have any animal hairs on their pants, it would be a very long shot to conclude that the person in question doesn’t have an animal. If, however, a person has animal hairs on their pants, we conclude that the person either has or has been in a contact with an animal. By analogy, if a person wears a wedding ring, we conclude the person is married, and if there is no ring, we shouldn’t conclude that the person is not married. Or?

Need for statistical knowledge

What if the number of people not wearing wedding rings corresponds highly to the number of people not married? From a purely subjective perspective, I think that most people that don’t wear wedding rings really aren’t married. But that’s just my interpretation and that’s the drawback. It would be best to have a statistical research giving us the percentages so that we know for sure. There are many other specific areas that should be investigated (scientifically) in a similar manner. For example, left-handed and right-handed people wearing bags – what would be the statistical percentage of left-handed people wearing their bags on their left side? Of those wearing them on their right side? Of right-handed people wearing them on the left and on the right?

These are some of the questions that beg a specific statistical answer so that one may get a much more precise theory when inducing. I have recently read about the Bayes theorem. It seems to me that its application in induction has a great potential.

 

 

Looking at people 4

Two different people whose opinion I quite value criticised these posts as only perceiving, but not making any conclusion. Maybe the following posts will include more false conclusions, but I see it as training.

Person 1
Middle-aged man, state of shoes says office work, as well as an HP laptop bag. No ring, not married. Carrying his laptop around on Saturday says work at home too, which means being busy. He seems tired on a nice, sunny weekend afternoon which goes in favor of previous claims. He’s got money (relatively expensive clothing) but he’s sentimental, keeping his leather bag even though it’s somewhat worn-out. Or is he maybe less aesthetic and more utilitarian? Don’t know. Every other piece of clothing is quite new. He succeeded in life and he’s proud of himself because he didn’t start great: strong thick hands and fingers imply manual work, maybe masonry.

Just one person today.

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.