There is a conceptual delight to the idea of a robot. A continuously productive machine with no gross emotions or feelings or biases is a wonderful thing. However, strange as it is, we are not machines. We need constant recharging, for hours and hours at a time. Even at our height, we are still not as efficient and effective as machines. We are volatile, events can harm us without direct physical contact. Humans are just so problematic compared to machines!
And yet! Being human is such a unique experience because we are aware that we are. We might not be as productive as machines, but what basis is there to assume our productivity equates to our worth? In some settings, we may begin to feel like that’s the case. However, there is more to us than that! We are creative and adapative. We can think outside the box, and use our associations to connect ideas. We can make wonderful things like machines in the first place, and emotionally connect to other people! Even we aren’t sure ourselves how we can do all of these things. It is something special to be a human.
While we love to connect to other people, part of being a social creature means we become jealous at times. We begin to compare oursleves to other people, and it goes downhill very quickly! But like machines and humans, part of being distinct entities requires there to be differences between them. Because you are an individual, you are different from those around you. Because we are varied in style, shape, and character, there are going to be differences in what we are good at and what we struggle with! You are not a machine, and that’s a good thing because you can do so much more than you are programmed for! You are also a “you”, and that means you are also able to bring something beautifully distinct to everything you do.
Today is Ravenclaw Pride day! For those who aren’t familiar with the Harry Potter series, Ravenclaw is a house of the Wizarding School of Hogwarts. Aspiring wizards in the world of Harry Potter are sorted into one of four houses based upon personality and motivations. Hufflepuffs are loyal and motivated by their relationships, Gryffindors are brave and motivated by their personal code, Slytherins are clever and motivated by their ambitions, and Ravenclaws (the best house), are wise and motivated by knowledge. Along with wisdom, Ravenclaws are also defined by their honesty, wit, and individuality. Regardless of your knowledge of the Harry Potter franchise or your Hogwarts House, there’s something to be gained by looking closely at this fictional institution.
People are motivated by numerous things, and even our traits vary in degree depending on the context. Why are we then so fixed upon knowing which box of personality we fall into? The phenomenon of taking pointless buzzfeed quizzes instead of doing work is a common one. Why do we care which character we are from some 90s show? Why do we have to “Decorate an apartment and … see what design aesthetic you have!” ? It’s because we like to know who we are. We like to see how we fit in with others. Since we’re biased to how we want to be portrayed, stupid personality quizzes provide a standard way of organizing people. Even if those standards are absolutely ridiculous and have no scientific backing, it’s fun! It shows us a part of ourselves we might not always be able to see.
So when it comes to the popularity of Harry Potter and knowing which Hogwarts House you’re in, it’s just that! Its fun and interesting to see where you fall in the best. It can also be a method of stabilizing yourself. When you have doubts about how capable or brave or hardworking or intelligent you are, when you wonder what your values are, something as silly as knowing your Hogwarts House is support. Maybe you don’t know what the future will bring, but you know what kind of person you are. But no matter your house, you can always reach out to those you care about, ambitiously follow your dreams, take risks, and make the wisest choice. So be proud! Knowing what you value is key to motivating you to do those amazing things you are capable of!
Shoes are the strangest signal of wealth. In number, quality, and design, the kind of shoes we wear are especially representative of station and personality. A meticulous, rich sort of people will likely have many, brand-name shoes that are well polished. An athletic, nonchalant individual might wear old sneakers and not think twice. An individual who cares about their appearance because they see it as art might wear bright yellow and see it as entirely practical for their purposes. But that’s the key: for their purposes. Do you have ordinary shoes? What kind of shoes do you consider “ordinary” at all? From your favorite pair of shoes you might be able to discern fashion-sense, practicality, self-image, environment, social class, and more! It’s amazing!
But shoes also serve as a subtle reminder of how different all of our lives are. You may think yourself organized, but if you have a pile of shoes in the doorway, that might not be the case. You might think yourself not well off economically, but you also might have more than seven pairs of shoes. You may believe yourself to be a most singular individual, but your shoes don’t stand out, maybe you don’t think too differently from others. Shoes are a kind of symptom of your individuality. There are always factors to consider (after all, you could have seven pairs of shoes and still be impoverished), but little details say a lot about a person.
So what kind of person are you? What kind of shoes do you have? But more importantly, do you have shoes? There are an estimated 300 million people who can’t afford shoes. That’s a massive number!! There are people who have whole shelves of shoes, and yet so many people can’t even afford basic protection for their feet. Going barefoot sounds nice in the summer time, but what about in the snow? Rocky areas? What about exposure to diseases on the ground? What about chronic fatigue and searing heat? The little things can say a lot about us, because they aren’t the things we typically try and control for. So consider a little kindness and think about giving to those in need. It doesn’t have to be shoes, it doesn’t have to be small, it doesn’t have to be incredible! But become the kind of person you want to be, and start it today.
Idealism is a trait that’s considered a plague of folly or an eye for incredible things. It’s often associated with youth, and so with it, we assume that idealism is the same as ignorance. Is this really true, however? After all, some of our most important leaders have been said to be idealistic, even over their many years of existence. In one breath we might put down youth and praise our finest leaders with the same trait. The question is, why is there is such a distinction between who has this futuristic, utopian mindset? I would argue, experience and what people do with that idealism.
Anyone can be idealistic. You sit or stand anywhere you please and imagine a future that’s better than the present you’re in. We tend to begin thinking idealistically around our teenage years because it’s a part of understanding ourselves as individuals whose actions can make a difference. As the years go by, however, we learn what to expect, and it’s often less than the spectacular image we wanted. This is where the distinction is developed: anyone can be idealistic before they’ve seen the world, it doesn’t take a special mind. However, to remain optimistic, even after you’ve seen the bad and ugly, is a strength.
It’s a strength that we should all try to encompass a bit more. It’s less about expecting something outlandish, and more about trying to get the world as it is to reach a place beyond where you thought it could be. In the original Star Trek series, at one point, Spock and a small crew are stuck in an orbit of a planet with very little fuel and no way of contacting the mother ship. Spock, very logical and calm, decides to use up the rest of their fuel in a manner that gives the ship a visual signal but will leave them for dead if it doesn’t work. It’s a big moment in the series for the character because he decides to take a risk that isn’t carefully controlled for like all the other risks he takes.
What a logical person learned from his human, emotional companions, is that we are capable of more than we think when we are able to be a little foolish and idealistic. If we close ourselves off, we are closed. We are unable to reach our fullest potential. However, if we see a better future and work for it, we can do some amazing things that people would not have expected. We should never underestimate our emotions.
A person’s favorite song says something about them. It shows what they desire to a certain degree. Maybe they want to be admired or loved. Sometimes it connects to how they feel, or a specific time or person in their life. However, mostly, we just like songs because they sound good. Art is similar. Rembrandt’s works are incredibly human, Monet’s impressionistic blossoms catch your eye, and Van Gogh’s work gives you this feeling of awe. History, context, and experience are all important when it comes to liking a work of art, but mostly, we just like them because it looks good. Food can come from a variety of places, appease the different desires of the tongue, but we just want something that tastes good at the end of the day. As humans, we like good things, even when there isn’t deeper meaning to it.
There’s a personality factor called, the “need for cognition”. It boils down to how much the individual likes to think. How much we engage in ‘effortful cognitive activities’ depends on how much we want to think about the world we’re in. For those who don’t need as much cognition, it’s easier to appreciate the ‘good things’ without overthinking it. It sounds good, so they like the song. For other people, that process seems ridiculous. We like things for a reason, after all, and so they are inclined to search out every possibility of a deeper meaning for their preference.
People aren’t robots; we have a wild spectrum of preferences, desires, and proclivities. If we want to be the best we can be, we have to look at who we are. Otherwise you’re comparing oranges to apples. Our need for cognition is a personality trait. It’s not easily changed and doesn’t have to be in order to live a full life. However, it’s helpful to realize where on the spectrum you fall: how much cognition you desire. Sometimes things are just good, and we don’t know the full reasons why. Sometimes things should be given more time and effort mentally. If you know you have a high need for cognition, try to calm your mental world a bit: it’s okay if you don’t know why sometimes. If you have a low need for cognition, maybe challenge your preferences a bit more. Make a change for the better.
As physics has progressed as a field, we’ve gradually realized that basically everything is made of waves. Light, gravity, even physical objects are frequencies in some aspect. So actually, it makes sense that sound waves connect to us, because that’s the nature of our reality. Somehow mixes of rhythms and notes with a variety of volumes can speak volumes to our sense of self. Music is the closest thing we have to magic, and it can be absolutely amazing. The focus word there is “can”. If you’ve ever heard any normal children’s choir, you can attest that not everyone can reach the level of magic through music.
What’s even more amazing is the parents somehow seeing past the horrid screeching at looking at their child with pride. Here you have something that can move people to tears, inspire billions, convince people to give up higher paying jobs, and instead it’s a wreck. But it doesn’t matter because it’s parents caring about what their children do.
Music is incredibly important, in so many ways. Yet it’s power depends on making us feel connected to other people. Songs are great because the emotions it gives you make you feel less alone in feeling them. As to say, music is great because it means that people have felt the same way you have. We need people. We need annoying people to remind us that patience is a virtue. We need beautiful friends to encourage us. We need authority to keep order and challenge when corrupt. There are lots of marvelous things, topics to delve into and analyze, but we should never forget that things aren’t as important as our relationships with others.
Everyone could always do more, but we don’t because we are human. We need sleep, food, and social interaction. We need to rest and do nothing every once in a while, to mentally relax. Still, its hard to know where the line is. Where does ‘needed rest’ end and ‘unhealthy procrastination’ begin? We could always do more, but do we always know what things we should put the most value on? Afterall, family is important but if the Boss expects something to be done by Monday, how do you navigate the waters well enough to give everyone what they need?
Balance is such an important concept, entire religions center around it. Still, with our human limitations, how do we learn to keep it?
We don’t, not at first. What we do instead is learn. When we mess up, it gives us the hint that we pushed too hard in one area and not enough in another. The reason older people have been treated with respect over the centuries and different cultures, is because they’ve simply had the experience of messing up enough to learn how to do less of it. Everyone fails. The key is to take something away from it and rush back into the game anyways. There is nothing shameful about trying your best. No one particularly knows what they’re doing, you just get better at pretending like you do. So go out! Learn the limitations and do great things.