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February 22nd, 2022
Never trust the words someone says. This isn’t to say that trusting someone is a bad idea - but to point out the disconnect between what they mean and what they say. We feel this on a personal level all the time. We have a sense, a notion, a ‘thought’, a feeling, and we endeavor to convey it, but upon hearing the sentences we utter we grit teeth thinking how far from the mark we hit.
So why don’t we apply this internal lesson to all that we hear from others. Why isn’t the built-in assumption that what we hear from others is at best just a hazy approximation of what they are trying to convey. But think about this a little more in depth: what exactly is attempting to come across with the sentences and paragraphs of others? Within each of us there is a unique internal environment that fluxes with misremembered pasts, edited constantly by evolving concepts - all of it tweaked by the color of emotion that is flooding the body and mind.
We have far too much faith in the meaning of words. Even though, even with this topic there is so much shift and drift. Truth used to mean something objective, something immutable that we all collaborated to try and approximate. Now the word truth just means ‘strong opinion’, because the word ‘opinion’ lacked the intestinal fortitude of a word as magnificent as “Truth”. So it was co-opted. The medium through which we try to convey our messy shifting internal landscape is itself a messy shifting landscape.
The whole endeavor of communication can easily seem hopeless. Better to just keep your mouth shut. And quite honestly, in almost all situations, this is the wiser if not simply easier course of action. But to withdraw completely is a sin unforgivable. Paired with a judicious choice of when and where to inject one’s own faulty speech is the necessary issue of how to listen. Never trust the words, they are but a fuzzy approximation of what someone wishes to say. You have to venture beyond their words, taking the context they create with sentence upon sentence, paragraph upon paragraph and extrapolate an entire model of who this person is, where they have come from and what exactly it might be to be that person, right now, in that situation we witness them in. It’s apparently wise to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but can you become a mental model of your friend or your enemy? If you can model the mind of an enemy perfectly then you can predict their next move. And if you can model the mind of a friend, then you can love that individual with a greater sense of compassion than most ever dream of. But with either the adversarial or the friendly, the medium of expression has to be taken with a flexible margin of error, one that can stretch to the shape of an accruing model of the person. A colloquial way of phrasing this is to take a person with a grain of salt. To allow for wiggle-room, to allow for the verbal and behavioral foibles of a person to live comfortably within the concept of who they might be.
Never trust the words, not because their intent is to lie, but because the words themselves will always - to some extent - fail the intentions of the one who speaks, just as your words will always fail you to some palpable degree.